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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

It's Not a Story to Share on Mother's Day, But It's a Way She Can Make Peace With Her Past

The stories Eula Mantz, bottom left, tells in
The stories Eula Mantz, bottom left, tells in "Eula," right, go back 65 or 70 years ? back to the days of the Great Depression and World War II. The Dublin, Va. resident's book recounts her life as a call girl's daughter. From top left is Beverly Musser, Mantz's mother, and Mantz in her younger years, center.

By Joe Tennis | Bristol Herald Courier | June 12, 2008

*** This story appeared in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier on Sunday, June 8, 2008. ***

DUBLIN, Va. ? She writes. And the pain flows. The past becomes the present. And the mother who did anything ? anything ? to make a living comes back alive inside the pages of "Eula."

Eula Cress Mantz shakes her head, grinning. She offers another piece of bread with homemade apple butter, another glass of milk. She talks about her life in Pulaski County, not more than 50 miles from where she grew up at Atkins, an old Smyth County railroad stop.

She likes it here, in Dublin, a quaint little community sliced by Lee Highway ? the north-south highway that also runs through Atkins, the road Mantz calls simply "Number 11."

And, yes, she talks about that mother she writes about so eloquently and so openly.

It's a story that's not pretty.

It's also not one she wanted to share on Mother's Day.

It's not one that she's too particularly proud of telling. And, yet, she's telling it ? and selling it ? as "Eula."
This tale, still, is all part of her heritage, just like Mantz's marriage to her best friend Richard Handy, the 78-year-old man she divorced but now shares a home with at Dublin.

Mama did what she had to do, Mantz says as she stares at that little book called "Eula."

On the cover, Mantz smiles in her youth ? back when she was about 25 or 30, quite pretty ? and yes, happy, despite growing up the daughter of a call girl and often left in hotel rooms while her mother went down the hall with business clients.

That is the story of "Eula."

This is a book that was originally published under the title "Life of a Call Girl's Daughter."

In recent months, Mantz found a different title when she brought it to a different publisher. The same book was released. Again.

And now?

Mantz wants to get out and meet the public. She wants to sign copies of her book.

"Booksignings," she said. "That's the way to get it done."

And, yet, she's cautious of her own appearance.

She leafed through a stack of publicity photos ? old ones ? ones that don't display the walker she now must use to get around. She wants to present just the right image, despite all the pain that's poured from her pen.

Mantz is 77. And the stories she's telling in "Eula," well, they're all going back 65 or 70 years ? back to the days of the Great Depression and World War II.

"My mother and daddy separated when I was little," Mantz said. "Mama left my daddy. They fought all the time."
Before long, Mantz's mother started hitchhiking.

And little Eula tagged along.

"It was way back in the Depression," Mantz recalled, "and she couldn't find a job."

And then?

Well, after going up to Roanoke, somebody suggested Mantz's mother would make a whole lot more money if she would take off for California.

Her mother did make more money ? as a call girl. But her mother's life, in her secret profession, was never completely understood by young Eula.

What does she remember?

"I stayed in a lot of hotels while Mama was working in the coffee shop," she said. "And she would leave me in the hotel room. And I don't know, but I never left those hotel rooms."

The coffee shop.

That's really all the young girl knew. That's what she was told. Either that or her mother "would sell uniforms," Mantz said. "That was her cover."

As a child, young Eula never knew how her mother made a living.

She simply sat, alone, in her hotel.

"I sat and looked out the window," Mantz remembered. "The woman who taught me how to read was in Los Angeles ... People knew if I could read, I could do anything."

And anything, in time, was what she found she wanted.

Mantz wanted a life with a husband and children and a job. A real job.

She eventually got all that.

But, as a child, she was with her mother, who "got involved with some kind of gangsters," she said. "Then, she put some money in the locker, and we snuck out of there one night."

The pair came to Abingdon. Little Eula went to school, and her mother worked for a restaurant.

"She worked for some Greek people," Mantz recalled. "They wanted to adopt me."

That never happened.

Still, little Eula did eventually escape the life around her mother.

At age 10, she ran away.

"The first time I run away, I slept in a haystack," Mantz said. "Every time I run away, it would be snowing. I never did run away when the sun was shining."

Coming home, she was beaten.

Another time, after running away at age 12, Mantz's mother told her to dig her own grave.

After that, Eula ran away ? for good.

"I put some clothes in a shopping bag," she said, "and I took off."

And the story continues ...

Chapter by chapter, Mantz recalls conflicts and controversies, and how she eventually came to live at a children's home in Wythe County.

Since then, she's survived the breakup of marriages. She's worked at a furniture factory in Pulaski and waited tables at the Ranch House in Dublin.

"Eula," too, is not the first time she's written a book.

In 1995, she self-published "Appalachian Mountains Amazing Stories," telling tales like "The Headless Ghost" and "The Salesman and the Chipmunk."

Along the way, she has written poems with titles like "God's World" and "Try Again."

"I've had a hard life," Mantz said. "But I wouldn't trade my life."

Yet a question remains.

Why does this humble, salt-of-the-earth woman from Southwest Virginia want this sad, old tale of her mother to be known?

Originally, she said, a teacher at nearby New River Community College talked her into writing the manuscript that became "Eula."

In a way, she figured, this book makes peace with the past. It's a way of trying to come to grips with all the fright and the fights.

"What she did ..." Mantz said.

Then, she paused.

Mantz mentioned her mother, Beverly Musser, one more time, saying she died in 1963 in a Marion hospital, mentally ill.
Still, she remembered that last chapter ? when the pair, finally, made peace.

"When I went up there to see her, I leaned over and kissed her and told her I loved her," Mantz said.

"And," Mantz said, smiling, "she just grinned at me." | (276) 791-0704

Title: "Eula"
Author: Eula Cress Mantz (E.C. Mantz)
Publisher: Cold Tree Press
Price: $12.95
Info: (615) 309-4984

A! ExtraTopics: Literature