This is the 6th installment in our Voices of Heritage Series. I’ve selected several stories and put them into one article because they had a general theme. Papa and Granny are reminiscing about hard times and good times in the past. They share about living in a barn, picking cotton, raising kids, and the cost of things back in their day. I’ll let them share it in their own words and voices.
Listen to Voices of Heritage Installment 6
Granny Tells About Eggs
I thought about when I was in the fifth grade. Ms. Hattie Wright was our teacher and then eggs was a nickel a piece then. Now that was in ’35, 1935, ’34 and ’35 and they was a nickel piece and Mama would sell the eggs and we’d take them to Florien and get a nickel a piece for ’em.
Ms. Hattie always come out there on a Friday and get eggs and we hadn’t gathered the eggs when she was out there. We didn’t have but three or four Mama wouldn’t let her have them and she said I’ll take some guinea eggs. And the guineas, you know how they gang up and lay eight or ten in the nest as long as you didn’t bother them and we’d found a new nest and we hadn’t gotten none out of it.
And Papa sent me out there to get the eggs for Ms. Hattie and there was big ol’ chicken snake in the nest. Well I screamed, Papa come out there and he’d swallered ten or twelve guinea eggs and we killed that snake and we were gonna just throw the snake, eggs and everything away and Ms. Hattie said, “No you’re not,” and she pushed them eggs out of that snake, washed them, and wanted to pay for them. Mama wouldn’t take no pay for them. She just didn’t give her them eggs and she took them eggs to use after that snake.
Papa: Well, they was as good as any of them.
Granny: But you think about then and now we think a dollar a dozen is a lot for eggs now. They was a nickel a piece back then. But you could take that nickel and buy a pound of coffee, pound of sugar and a bar of soap with that one nickel.
Papa Tells About Living in a Barn
Granny: We cleaned out a barn one time, we threwed out that old piecce and then picked cotton for a living.
Papa: Yeah we went out to…times was hard back in them days. You couldn’t make no money. So we went out the old Peason out there and cleaned out a old barn and floored the mule stall and we had it for a kitchen. It come, it come a rain and the whole thing’d leak so bad we had to pile up all our furniture, what little we had in the corn and cover it up with quilts, to
keep it from getting wet all over. (chuckles)
Herman, my brother come out there and another guy was picking cotton out there. We was all stayin’ in that little ole barn there, and he was staying with us.
Then another guy lived up at the other house we called him Bud Massey. That was his name, Bud Massey, old Bud. We picked cotton all day and come down there at night and Bud’d go somewhere, I don”t know where he was a gettin’ ’em, he was stealing us some chickens. He’d steal two or three fryers and bring them down there and we’d clean ’em and Lona’d fry ’em and we’d make gravy, and biscuits, hot biscuits, gravy, and chicken, fried chicken.
We said, well, we had it up first one to say anything about the cooking, about the stuff that was cooked had to wash dishes. (chuckles) Herman, my brother, I made a bowl of gravy and I put about a teacup of salt in it and Herman, he got him a plate full and they passed it around. They all got some of it, man. They’d take a bite and look at one another.
Herman, he said, “I’ll tell you what, this gravy’s sure salty but that’s just like I like it.” (chuckles) he liked it, yeah, “this gravy’s sure salty but that’s just like I like it.”
But we had another bowl of gravy made, good gravy and after we had the fun well, we took that bowl off and poured it out and we had a bowl of good gravy. We had a lot of fun.
Papa Talks About Picking Cotton For a Living
Granny could pick more cotton than we could. I never could get about a hundred pounds a day was all I could get. I guess I was too lazy or somethin’.
He’d pay us off every day, every evenin’, the old man was pickin’ fer or wherever we picked at. We picked for several different people out there.
We’d get through picking for one. We’d go to a patch and get another.
Granny Remembers After School Snacks and Light Bread
My children come in from school, we didn’t know what it was to have bought cookies and pizzas and all this good stuff, candy bars, and everything. I’d have them some hot biscuit and fried potatoes or take my cold biscuit and put some syrup on ’em in a skillet and cook that syrup til
it kinda candied or either I’d crumble ’em up and put them in the oven and kinda brown ’em and cook some chocolate til it’d be thick and make good chocolate syrup on where they’d be sitting. They’d just eat them.
They’d be so happy to get ’em cause we couldn’t go to a store there wasn’t
in the store to buy. You just couldn’t buy it if you had the money because when they started making light bread, puttin’ it in the stores, oh that was the best stuff.
You’d get it for about eight cents a loaf, maybe a nickel a loaf. But my Lord, my children and we all eat a loaf fore we stopped. It wasn’t the big ole loaf like it is now. It was smaller than a pound loaf. You look at what a pound loaf is at town and it was smaller than that.
We’d eat it without stopping. We couldn’t buy it all the time and you hardly ever found it because they just started making it. It wasn’t nothing but Wholesome then. Nothing but Wholesome bread, Wonder bread yeah, they had Wonder bread. But they didn’t complain about what they had because they didn’t know it and no other children had it.
I kept ’em cookies or cook ’em a gingerbread cake or cook ’em a blueberry cake and stir some huckleberry up in it and cook it or I’d fix ’em biscuits or something like that you know. But they loved to come home to hot biscuits and steam fried potatoes and put them in there.
Then if we didn’t have anything for them to do, they’d go to their playhouse. Well, I’d fix ’em a jug of water or jug of milk or maybe Kool-Aid and put some of them potatoes ‘tween a biscuit and put them in a little bucket.
Oh, they had them a lunch. They went to their playhouse and had a picnic eat their lunch out of their buckets.
We never did throw away a bucket. We kept ever bucket and ever sack. You’d get cloth sacks. We didn’t throw away nothin’. But they’d have a time eatin’ their lunch out at the play house.
But if we had anything to do, if they had a whole lot of lessons, they had to come out in and get their lessons and do their homework and things help at the house get in the wood and the splinters and get water.
Granny: We always had to carry water. We had to haul water from a little well down here that we called Jacob’s Well. Put it in the barrel slide it up there with the horse. Aubrey and Dora would, you know, and I’d help ’em fill it up but Aubrey’d work the slide, horse to a slide.
After we got all our night water in and watered the calves, if he was hot, he’d just get down in that barrel of water and take him a bath down in it. Of course, we couldn’t use it for nothin’ but just to wash and water the stock with. But he’d do that nearly every time.
Papa come in one time and caught him down in it and Papa didn’t know that we had all of our night water up and what we thought would be enough. And he got on to him.
Everything filled up with water and a bathtub some in our number
three tub, we all took a bath in. It was hard, but I look back on it now and we were happy.
A Dollar and a Doctor
We didn’t have anything and when you got a dollar, you could buy so much more with it. It went so much further and ya couldn’t go to a doctor. There wasn’t a doctor ever 15 or 20, maybe 50 miles. Ya couldn’t hardly get to a doctor.
I can remember back though how I loved to have pretty gardens and loved the pretty crops and loved the pretty quilts that I have quilted. And my pretty scrubbed floors without rugs or anything on ’em cover ’em with a shut mop. And they’d just smelled so pretty and clean, you know, and everything.
I thought everything was just fine. But nowadays people laugh about it, but I didn’t, I liked that. Everything was clean. And every time I would wash, I’d take my washin’ water and scrub my chairs and scrub my porch and the kitchen and scrub my all my floors.
We didn’t have no rugs. Nobody had rugs then. And that’s way I liked it. I
liked it clean. I like a house, clean house now but I’m just barely not able to do it no more. Life is good to us though.
Now, when we were raising our children going off in a wagon, we’d wrap them up in a quilt, you know, and they’d go to sleep on their way back from Mama’s and Mama Ford’s. Then when Papa got us a car, we’d go to church
in the car.
I was thinkin’ about days when my children was little like we lived in an old house and we put corn cobs in the cracks around the heater and put a quilt down in the floor so the wind wouldn’t blow up on ’em.
And Dora Jane before she learned to talk, we’s lookin’ at the weather and loading the porch up with wood and good splinters and things. And Papa said, “Ya know, I just believe it’s going to snow. It looks just like it feels like it.” And she said, “Oh, me hopes it do stow and stow and stow.”
Well, that night we went to bed. We fired up the heater and put a big old stick of wood in the heater. Next morning we woke up, everything was covered in snow. Our bed, it blowed in under all the shingles up on our roof and our bed was just white and the floor was white. And when she woke up,
I woke her up and told her it snowed and she saw it she said, “It did so, it did so, it did so.”
The same way it’d do the same way like that with smut, sut out of the (wood heater) when a March wind would blow it’d blow a little smut like that in our house. We didn’t even have a screen nor a window. We had a shut pull ole wooden window. We just pulled two and latched and we didn’t. We were just as happy as we could be.
Change of Life
But life has changed with everybody and we’re living in a fast, fast day and way of living. Of course, you know, Papa’ll be 80 years old next Wednesday and I’ll be 77 my next birthday and we can’t do like we’re used to.
We’ve got a pretty good garden started, him and Helen. And I’m cooking
some cabbage out of our garden today and we got little potatoes on some potatoes here in the yard.
When we was farming in the piney woods we just raised potatoes to do from one season to the other of both kind. But you know, people can’t raise potatoes like that now.
Back then we didn’t have no other source but farm and work a little bit in the winter and when the crops was laid by to get our money, you know, to pay for our fertilize and our seeds and buy a few clothes and buy what we couldn’t raise, like flour and coffee and sugar and we had everything else, you know.
And we had our syrup. We had always had more syrup than we needed more bacon than we could use and more corn and dried peas and peanuts. We
just had gobs and gobs of peanuts.
We’d just go out there and we had a barrel out in the barn and we’d just hit them peanuts after they dried real good over the barrel. What come off all right what didn’t we fed the rest of them to the cows to make our milk and butter.
We loved those old days back then, you know. We had to get up a pine enough to do all the winter and we had to fatten our hogs and I pieced scraps and quilted.
My Granny was considered by some abrupt or blunt, but she was a matter-of-fact woman. Often in phone conversations, she’d suddenly say, “Well, Ok, bye,” even in the middle of a sentence. It was usually because something needed her attention or someone was there for a visit but she never explained herself she just tended to the task at hand.
So the fact that this section of the recording just ended isn’t strange to those of us who knew her. I hope you will take it as it is, just Granny.
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Really love reading about ‘the old days’. It reminds me of my nan, she couldn’t afford a doctor so relied on herbal remedies.
Thanks, Jackie, I’m happy to know you enjoyed Papa and Granny’s stories.