There was many a diaper change and many a sleepless night for a Hope lady who gave birth to 19 children She recently celebrated her 85th birthday, with many family members and friends.

There was many a diaper change and many a sleepless night for a Hope lady who gave birth to 19 children She recently celebrated her 85th birthday, with many family members and friends.

Flossie Johnson was born March 11, 1929, and raised in Ozan, with nine brothers and sisters.

“I went to school at Washington, and when they closed that school, I went to the Academy,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “I quit school in the ninth grade, when I got pregnant the first time. I was 16 and still living with my mother.”

She was engaged to the father of her first child, she said.

“But, I found out he was seeing someone else and I didn't want any part of that mess, so I stayed single,” Johnson said.

At 20 years old, Flossie met another man, who was four and a half years older.

“My oldest son was three years and seven months older than my second child,” Johnson said. “I didn't want to get pregnant again, so I stayed away from men all that time.”

Three of Johnson's children died at birth, including a set of twins and a single baby.

“I had three sets of twins all together,” she said. “Every time I would have twins, I would have to go to the hospital in Hope and get blood. One time I was in the middle of a tomato harvest, and I felt a pain and almost had the baby right there in the tomato patch. I nicknamed her 'Mato Mama.'”

Flossie said that she always had a big garden to feed her children, and that the children's father would give her cows that he raised to make sure the family was fed.

“I had a big garden and cows and chickens that we grew and we ate good,” Johnson said. “I never went to the store except for flour and sugar. We didn't need to, because we grew almost everything we ate.

“Ed always made sure that his family was fed and he took good care of all of the children,” she said. “No matter what, he took care of the children.

“We rented a home for a long period of time, and Jim Walter Homes was building houses around there, and I went to look at one and I bought it,” Johnson said. “By that time, I was working at Champion Parts, which was called the Generator Plant at that time. I started out working for $2.45 an hour and kept getting nickel raises. William Waller and Harry Kidd were some of my supervisors while I was there.”

She stayed with that job until she retired March 15, 1991.

“I worked there 18 years and retired when I was 62 years old,” she said. “My children who were working would bring some of their money home and along with my money, we'd pay the house note.”

At one point in time, Flossie asked the doctor to perform surgery.

“That doctor told me that he couldn't tie my tubes, because he was afraid that my parents would sue him,” she said. “It was just like that back then.”

Flossie raised her children in church throughout their lives.

“The first church we went to was St. Mark's C. M. E. Church in Ozan, then we went to the Power House Church of God in Christ and finally, went to Roadside COGIC,” she said. “The children enjoyed going to church, as well as playing with their friends, playing basketball, and playing softball. We had enough children for two teams, so that's what they did.”

Her faith has been an integral part of her life.

“I asked God a long time ago to let me live to see all my children grown, and He did,” she said. “I have lost three sons in recent years, but 13 of my children are still living and visit with me when they can.”

In addition to the 13 children still living, Flossie has 54 grandchildren; 55 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

“I've worked hard, tended to my business and heeded my mama's advice to 'clean up my own backyard,'” Flossie said. “Arthritis and gout pain me sometimes but most everyday, I do real good. I try to tell young ones not to show out and to respect their parents and act right. Don't talk back to your mother and father. Show some respect.

“The way I made it was that I had a garden to feed my children, got commodities from the government, and received welfare,” she said.

She has always taken life with a sense of humor.

“I remember a funny incident that happened to me right after I had my last baby, at age 42,” Johnson said. “I got a packet of information in the mail and it told me to come get my package of birth control pills that were waiting for me. I laughed and threw the mess in the trash.

“The Lord's help, my being able to work, and other people's help is what got me and my children through,” she said. “I have been blessed throughout my life and I know it.”