December 30, 2013

Tuesday's Tune ~ Auld Lang Syne

Celtic Graveyard - Scotland

Scotland's gift to the world, "Auld Lang Syne", was written in 1788 by Robert Burns.  The title's English translations are  "Old Long Since", "Long, Long Ago" and "Days Gone By".  

As we say goodbye to another year, may we all remember the days gone by, friendships of old and loved ones who have passed on before us.

"Auld Lang Syne"

December 29, 2013

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 29

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
The ladies here in the village started a little Bridge club in the early to mid-1930s.  There were about twelve women in the club.  They would play every week at somebody's house.  
Allye Steele Edmonds playing Bridge
There would be a first prize for the one who made the highest score. The booby prize went to the one who came in second.  The lady who was the hostess for the day gave out the prizes.  My mother was a great Bridge player.  The other ladies said she was one of the best.
I went with my mother everywhere.  Wherever you saw Allye, you saw Little Bruce.  She took me to all the Bridge games.  I especially liked going to the Bridge games because they always had refreshments.  I made sure I got in on all the refreshments.
The ladies in the Bridge club were Kathryn Benedict [Charlie] Smith, Wardie Reeves [Gus] Krause, my mother, Birdie Talbert [Oscar] Krause, Georgia Westbrook [Henry] Peniston, Willie Woodward, Isabel Enright [Melvin] Foster, Lela Tarver [Enos] Jackson, Earle York [Henry] Krause, Henry Brown [Zeb, Jr.] York, Thelia Huff [Albert Earl] Krause, Dorothy Gordon, Lilla Sorg [Tom] Enright and I believe Katie Harris [Cameron] Coney.
In playing Bridge, one of the players would bid.  If another player didn't think that player could make it, they would double the bid.  The player making the original bid could re-double the bid. That made the score higher. 
Mrs. Wardie Krause was known for doubling.  They called her Doubling Dora.  I think my mother gave her that name.
Playing Bridge
I watched them play many a day for hours and hours. Later on, in the early 1940s, my mother started playing Bridge up at Uncle Tom Enright's house with Uncle Tom and Mrs. Lilla and sometimes their daughter, Isabel Foster.  Other times, old man Zeb York would play with them.
I never got to play Bridge on a regular basis.  If somebody was late or didn't show up, they would let me play.

The men played checkers and dominoes.
Mr. Buck Smith had a checker board on a bench in front of his store.  Mr. Buck loved to play checkers.  Mr. Willie Benge was a great checker player.  The colored people liked to play checkers but they called it pool checkers.  You could jump all the way across the board, back and forth.  
Little Harry Jenkins, who we called "old folks", was the mail carrier.  He carried the mail in the mornings and in the evenings.  He would hang around town between those times.  Sometimes he helped Mr. Buck in his store.  He was always there on the street and would play pool checkers. Willie Cooper, who we called "Blue", would play pool checkers with Little Harry Jenkins.
There was a domino table right beside Mr. Whitlock's barbershop.  From early morning until dark, there would be men sitting out there playing dominoes.  John Fairbanks, Vernon Whitlock and I would sit out there and watch them play.  We got to be good domino players.  
John Fairbanks and I watched them for hours.  If we caught the table empty with no grown men there, we would play.  If the men showed up, we'd have to quit playing and let the men play. Every once in a while they would let us play. 
I've got to tell this story.
One day, John and I wandered up town barefooted and were playing dominoes and here came Mr. Willie Benge to town.  Mr. Rufus Knight was across the street at the filing station.  They both headed to the domino table.  I guess they felt bad about breaking up our game so they suggested that John and I play them in a game.  I can just see Mr. Willie Benge laughing now.
John and I were partners against Mr. Willie Benge and Mr. Rufus Knight.  Mr. Rufus was a great domino player.  Mr. Willie was one of those who studied and concentrated on the game.  Players got seven dominoes a piece and after two or three plays or rounds, Mr. Willie would almost know what was in everybody's hand; who had what and who didn't have what.
In this game, Mr. Willie was playing ahead of me.  He had already figured out the dominoes that I didn't have and he knew I didn't have the 5x4 by the way we had played the first two or three rounds.  He played me wide open to a count knowing I didn't have the 5x4.  I'd show up with the 5x4 and score 15 or 20 points.  
Mr. Rufus was also keeping up with who had what.  He knew John Fairbanks didn't have the 6x4 because he had been opened to that play before and didn't play it.  John would show up with the 6x4 and score.
The game went on and on.  Mr. Whitlock caught up with his barbering and came out to watch. Other domino players began to show up.  They were all anxious to get the table but that game was going on and John and I were beating Mr. Willie and Mr. Rufus.  
Carey Fairbanks
Those other men were whooping and laughing.  Boy, Mr. Willie never cracked a smile.  He never quit studying and humming.  Mr. Rufus was just desperate.  He was mad.  We were just tearing them up.  All those men knew that John and I were pretty good players.
After a while, here came one of John's older brothers, Carey Fairbanks.  He was about four years older than us.  Carey stood there and watched us play. All of a sudden, Carey yelled, "Them suckers are passing the dominoes under the table!"  He had caught us.
What was happening was John wasn't supposed to have the 6x4.  Mr. Rufus played him safe for that, he thought.  I had the 6x4 and put it between my toes and passed it to John under the table.  John did the same for me on the 5x4.
We'd been playing for an hour or more.  I'll never forget the looks on the faces of Mr. Willie Benge and Mr. Rufus Knight as we played.  They had the darnedest looks on their faces.  They just couldn't figure out how two little boys were beating them.
Later on, the men had domino parties.  They would invite different people to their houses and usually played late in the evenings or at night.  
After I got grown, I started playing dominoes with the older men.  We didn't have a domino table up town anymore but at least once a week someone had a domino party at their house.  
One night, Mr. Claude Enright was having a domino party at his house and somebody at the last minute told him they couldn't come that evening.  Mr. Claude asked me to play.  He knew I played.  After that, when they needed a fill-in, they would call me.  I got to be a regular at only twenty-five years old; playing with men who were sixty-five and seventy years old.  We would start at about six in the evening and play until ten or eleven at night.
Cameron Coney
I played with Price Wilkinson, Claude Enright, Cameron Coney, Aubrey Brooks, T. J. Peniston, Ed Stephens and Simon Meyers.  Goodness, they enjoyed those games!  I know that Mr. T. J., Mr. Price and Mr. Claude would have rather played dominoes than eat!  They thoroughly enjoyed it. They didn't enjoy it any more than I did.  I'd hear we were going to play that evening and I would just be excited.
Several years ago, Mr. Price Wilkinson who was in his early 90s had been playing with Mr. Brooks, Mr. Dent and Mr. Garland Furr.  Mr. Dent died and Simon Meyers started back playing with them then quit.  Mr. Price asked me to start playing with them again.  
Price Wilkinson
Every Thursday night we'd meet up at Mr. Price's house and play dominoes.  It ended up with me and Mr. Price playing Mr. Garland Furr and Little Zeb York, old man Zeb York's grandson.  We played just like we had in the past.  There would be some hot competition.  We'd laugh at each other, argue with each other, complain and make excuses.
I remember one night Mr. Price and I were beating them real bad.  We must have played fifteen games that night and we had won about twelve of the games.  Mr. Price was just a laughing.  He would get almost hysterical.  I can just see him rubbing his hands together, clapping and laughing.  
As everybody got ready to leave, I called out to Little Zeb to tell him he had left his hat.  He came back in the house and said he didn't wear a hat.  Oh man, Mr. Price Wilkinson laughed!  I had made Little Zeb come back inside for his hat and he hadn't even worn one.
Aubrey Brooks

Mr. Brooks and Mr. Coney told me about the time they had been out at Mr. Price Wilkinson's house some years before to play dominoes.  Mr. Price was on the losing end of the game.  Of course, that wasn't funny to him. He didn't like to lose.  
They got to the door, getting ready to go home and Mr. Price almost pushed them out the door. Just as the door closed a huge down pour of rain began.  They said it was like he just pushed them out in the rain because they had beaten him at dominoes.
I wouldn't give a flip for playing dominoes with just anybody.  Playing with that bunch of men who were all older than me was just something I really enjoyed.  I miss them.  
Mr. Price Wilkinson would have been 100 years old on July 3rd.  He died last winter [1990] and didn't quite make the 100.
All of them are gone now.  I miss my old domino partners.  I sure do.

Note:  Parts 1-28 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.

Military Monday ~ John W. Bowman, Sr.

John W. Bowman, Sr.

Born on May 16, 1926

Son of
William Homer Bowman and Anabel Postlethwaite Register

Brother of
Nedra, Aaron Charles, Jean Elizabeth and William Homer "Billy" Bowman

Husband of
Mae Lee

Father of
Carol, John and Tammy Bowman

Died on December 3, 1988
Buried in the Highland Park Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

Private First Class
United States Army
World War II
Enlisted on August 23, 1944
Honorably Discharged on June 28, 1946

Tombstone photographs were taken by FindAGrave member, Dorothy S. Tiser.

December 27, 2013

The Gillis Family

Gillis House 1923-1933

While posting the stories about the Gillis House, I became curious about the Gillis family.  It is told that the Gillis family only lived in the house for a short time but I still felt the need to learn more about this family and how they came to own a home in Sicily Island.

From a 1980 edition of the Catahoula News-Booster, Will Peck, IV, gave the following account:
Shortly after the house was begun [by the Lovelace family], the Civil War broke out.  Hard times fell on Lovelace who had invested almost all of his funds into cotton, a commodity that hit the market during the war.
It was during this period of financial difficulty for Lovelace that New Orleans broker, Alfred B. Gillis, whose name became synonymous with the home, came into the picture.  Gillis mortgaged the house and property of Lovelace and after Lovelace could not repay the funds, Gillis foreclosed.
Gillis was apparently a sensitive man for he remarked even then that he wanted the Lovelace family to one day get the house and property back.
Although Gillis never actually resided in the house for a long period of time, he and his wife made frequent visits to the estate, holding parties and often entertaining guests.  Instead, Gillis hired Israel Scott to manage the plantation.
Indianapolis Sunday Star, October 6, 1912
Courtesy of Chronicling America

Marcelin Gillis was born on August 21, 1824 in Hanles Prysmors, Laniculle France.  He arrived in New Orleans aboard the French ship Le Valliant on January 21, 1843 at the age of eighteen.  His occupation was listed as Accountant.

The 1850 U.S. Census shows Marcelin Gillis living in the Trinity area of Catahoula Parish.  His occupation was shown as Merchant.

On May 25, 1854, Marcelin Gillis married Caroline Nancy Griffin in Catahoula Parish.

A son was born to this marriage in 1855. His name was Alfred Barr Gillis.  It is this Alfred Barr Gillis who once owned the Gillis House in Sicily Island.

He attended law school at Washington & Lee University in New Orleans and in 1879 he was listed as a practicing attorney in New Orleans.

A U.S. passport application was filed and issued to Alfred Barr Gillis on April 24, 1880.

On April 12, 1888, Alfred Barr Gillis married Lucille Winchester Bohn who was born on May 22, 1864.  She was the daughter of Auguste Bohn and Lucille Winchester  Their marriage took place in Orleans Parish.

The following children were born to the marriage of Alfred Barr Gillis and Lucille Winchester Bohn:
Lucille, 1889-1954 (m. John Duncan Minor, 1876-1937)
Alfred Marcel, 1892-1971 (m. Marcie Caffery, 1893-1991)
Daphne W., 1895-1973 (m. Edward Caffery, 1889-1982
Alfred Barr Gillis died on June 15, 1914 and Lucille Winchester Bohn Gillis died in 1957.  Both are buried in the Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana.  Alfred is buried with the Gillis family and Lucille is buried with the Bohn family.  Tombstone photographs were taken by FindAGrave member, Barbara Munson.

Gillis Family Tomb

Gillis Family Tomb
Jean/John Gillis (brother to Marcelin)
M. Gillis
Caroline N. Gillis
Alfred B. Gillis
St. Michael Caffery (possibly a grandson of Marcelin)
Colonel Marcel Gillis (son of Marcelin)

Bohn Family Marker
Auguste Bohn
Lucile W. Bohn
Fergus Bohn
Lucille Bohn Gillis

Special thanks to Kendell Coney Horton for forwarding the newspaper article and photograph of the Gillis House provided to her by Bill Lambert of Natchez, Mississippi.  Kendell is a descendant of Israel Smith Scott and Emily Mason Turpin.  Bill is a descendant of the Crawford family who once lived in the Gillis House.

December 26, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past ~ Island Girls

This photograph was taken in 1939 in front of Wes Ogden's store in Sicily Island.  The store was originally built and operated by Wes' father-in-law, Isham Alfonso "Al" Steele circa 1917.  In later years, it was owned and operated by the O. G. Wynn, Sr. family and the Gordon Higgins family.

Seated on the bench are (LtoR) Sarah Virginia Ogden (Caston), Catherine "Kitty" McNair (Nolen), Barbara Jane Peck (Gilbert), Eugenia Smith (Ritchie) and Winnie Wynn (Taylor, Smith).

December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve ~ 1960

The movie clip below was recorded on December 24, 1960.
It was viewed many times without the children ever realizing just what they were actually seeing.
Fifty-three years later, the clip continues to remind me of the magic of Christmas.

Tuesday's Tune ~ O Holy Night!

Childhood Remembrances of Flora Crawford Eschenburg, Part 5

The following transcript is from the childhood remembrances of Flora Kathryn Crawford Eschenburg who was the daughter of Samuel Cooke Crawford and Rachel Victoria Seal.

Part Five - Entertainment
One might think that with all the things people had to do to make a living in those days, there was no time for fun.  That was not true.  I can assure you that we had many good times.  I have written about some of the fun things we did.
On Sunday, we would pile on the wagon and go to church.  We had a buggy, but that wouldn't hold the whole family.  It was used mostly for trips to town and Mama used it for visiting friends. It was customary for us to go to church at night.  Everyone would take lanterns along to light the way on the return trip home.  
Quite often we had church dinners called "dinners on the grounds".  Everyone brought baskets of prepared food and spread dinner on the ground.  Everyone sat around on blankets and helped themselves.  Lemonade was the usual drink, and we had all the water we needed.
When the crop work was finished and plants were left alone to grow, we'd load the wagon with camping equipment and several families would join together for a camping trip.  We would go to a place on the river called The Rocks and camp for as much as three days at a time.  We enjoyed fishing, swimming, tale telling, and just relaxing.  

The Rocks - 2011
We usually took a boat along and made good use of it.  We caught fish and fried them in a frying pan set on the campfire.  This campfire was used for cooking and for lighting the campsite. Of course we took mosquito bars along to protect us from mosquitoes at night.  All homes used mosquito bars since there were no window screens until the 1920s.
Papa and the boys enjoyed coon hunts and squirrel and deer hunting.
Another thing young boys in the community enjoyed doing was snitching eggs from hens' nests and planning an egg boiling.  Usually eggs were sold for a little "pen" money, or traded at the grocery store.  The boys would sneak them a few at a time until Saturday night when they would take them into the woods and boil them.  
Sometimes they would also include a chicken to be roasted over the campfire.  As late as 1928-34, the schools took eggs in payment for entry into the ball games.
We loved to go crawfishing in the small stream that ran near our house.  We used a piece of fat meat on a string to lure the crawfish.  When they grabbed the bait, we grabbed the crawfish.
We had candy makings, watermelon cuttings, peanut boilings, fish fries, and ice cream making. Our friends were invited and often walked two or three miles to get to the party.  The older boys and girls had regular parties during which they played such games as Shoot the Buffalo, Skip to My Loo, and Drop the Handkerchief.  There was also square dancing.
We had horses to ride.  I especially remember a smaller horse we had that we called Charlie, and a red one with a white face that we called Lady.  We rode two or three on a horse at a time when we were small.  Someone would lead the horse as we rode.  We rode alone as we grew older and more able to handle the horse.
We thought milking a cow was fun as long as we did it only when we wanted warm milk squeezed directly into our mouths.  When we got big enough to have milking as a chore, it ceased to be fun and became work.
We loved playing under the house where it was cool.
Box suppers were popular, especially at school and church fund raising affairs.  The girls would decorate their boxes to the best of their ability, cook their favorite foods, and pack enough food for two people.  The boys would bid on the boxes.  The identity of the person who prepared the box was kept secret, but often the boys would try to find out who had packed which box. Then they would bid on the box packed by their girlfriend or by a girl they wanted to court.
Many times we'd go on picnics at St. Mary's Fall, Big Creek, or Norris Springs.  Norris Springs was our favorite spot.  It was a lovely, clear spring flowing from a hillside.  We loved to slide down the steep hill on pieces of cardboard, boards, pieces of tin, or about anything we could find that would keep us from blistering our seats as we came sailing down the hill.  We also spent time on the hill and in the creek searching for rattle rocks.
Norris Springs - 2011

Natural Spring Water - Norris Springs - 2011
Often as we sat around the fireplace on winter evenings, we ate parched peanuts, chewed sugar can or ate popcorn.  Papa would entertain us with ghost stories, or tales of his early childhood. Often he would play the fiddle for us if his fingers weren't too stiff.
Some evenings a friend with a guitar or a Jew's Harp would drop over and it would be a joy to sit on the floor around them and listen to their music.  Later our oldest brother learned to play a violin.  Our dad played such tunes as the Arkansas Traveler, Turkey in the Straw, and Buck-eyed Rabbit.  These tunes were the ones he had danced to when he was a young man.  Our brother, however, liked to play more sophisticated music such as Lieberstraum and The Blue Danube Waltz.
Until we moved to the Gillis House, we rode to school by wagon or we walked.  This was not as bad as it sounds, but the distance required that we got up quite early in the morning.  The wagon was covered and we had fun along the way.  Sometimes we would get off the wagon to pick flowers.  Then we'd have to run to catch up.  We'd have sing-a-longs and once in a while a good argument or even a fight or two.  But these didn't last long, and we were all friends the next day. Later we rode on the first school bus.  
When we were older, it was a thrill to get to sit by our favorite boyfriend or girlfriend.  We took our lunches in buckets and would gather our friends at lunchtime to share food and eat.  We had a Jewish friend named Peachy Saltzman who loved to trade her goose liver sandwich for our pork sausage.
Finally, silent movies came to our little town and would be shown at the school auditorium. Anyone could go if they had 15 cents to get in.  I well remember my father going with us to see his first movie.  I think it was a western called "Riders of the Purple Sage".  How he did enjoy it! It was not until about 1928-30 that a movie house was built in Wisner, the nearest town.
Sports were the big thing in school.  We loved the track meets and basketball tournaments.  I was on the First Team and enjoyed getting out of school on Friday evening to play teams at nearby schools.  Some schools were not so near and we were often late getting home.
On graduation night the big treat was wearing a white dress, the finest your parents could afford, and your "invited" flower girls showered you with flowers at the foot of the stage.  Caps and gowns were not in fashion until after I graduated in 1930.
I look back on my growing up years with a great deal of pleasure.  Many changes have taken place since those days that were supposed to make life easier, and they have in many ways. However, I often wonder if those changes have made us happier or better people.  With all the busy times back then, it seemed to be busy-ness with a purpose.  
Today we seem to be very, very busy, but are we sure of where we are heading?  Is it true that when we had to travel to church in wagons and buggies that more people attended church?  Or that children appreciated more of the things they got for Christmas, even if it might be very little?  Or that children appreciated school more when they had to supply their own books and writing materials and carry their own lunches?  Are we willing to help our neighbors and do we enjoy helping those in need?
During my childhood, we didn't have to worry about leaving the windows open, the doors unlocked or the keys in the car.
During my lifetime, I have seen travel progress from horse and buggy and wagon, to train, car and airplane.  I have even sat by my television and watched men and women travel into space.  I have seen communication progress from slates to pencil and paper, pen and ink, typewriters, and computers.  It makes one wonder what is coming next.
In reality, I guess I am just getting old, looking back to the "old days" and getting sentimental. But I hope this provides my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and any others who read this an insight into what life was like during my youth.

Special thanks to Joan McLemore for allowing me to share her Aunt Flora's childhood remembrances.  Joan is the daughter of Flora's older sister, Dell Crawford Meadows.

Note:  Parts 1-4 of 'Childhood Remembrances of Flora Crawford Eschenburg' can be found in the Tags List on the right side of the blog, under the tag titled Crawford Family.

December 22, 2013

Military Monday ~ Govie Coaker Miles

Govie Coaker Miles

Born on April 17, 1892

Son of
Yancey Samuel Miles and Rosa "Maggie" Pentecost

Brother of
Elbert, Hubbard, Joseph, Mary, Jeff, Lee, Hardy, Anna, Eloise and Marvin Miles

Died on December 21, 1973
Buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

United States Army
World War I
Enlisted on June 26, 1918
Honorably Discharged on August 25, 1920

"Your memory is dear to us"

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 28

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
One of the most mysterious persons to me was Uncle Dave Balance who lived down at the Rocks. I never have heard of anybody who knew anything at all about him.  He was a crippled fellow who lived on the other side of the lake, way down there.  
The Rocks - 2011
His closest neighbors were the Ratcliffs and I-Bo [Richard Iverson] and Cora Harris when they lived down there. They lived over a mile away from where Uncle Dave Balance lived.
I found out the other day that he did move from down there just before he died.  He moved on this side of the lake in a little house on the Peck place.
Thinking about where Uncle Dave Balance lived down at the Rocks...
A little ways on down Bayou Louie was a small island called Stack Island.  The Louie was where Lake Lovelace narrowed into a bayou before reaching the Ouachita river.  The island that used to be out in Lake Lovelace, right across from the Peck's homes, had some pretty good sized trees on it.  
Lake Lovelace - 2011
I spent one whole afternoon on that island in about 1949 or 1950.  Mickem Juneau and I got a boat at the boat landing and paddled out to the island.  We had some beer and some ham sandwiches we had gotten from Charlie's Nite Club.  
Cousin Will
Little Will Peck, my first cousin, was running around on the lake bank. He wanted to go with us so I put him in the boat and took him across to the island with us.
The widest part of that island was probably 10 to 12 feet.  It was all sandy and had big trees on it.  It must have been 50 yards long. There was two parts to it. There was a little gap in there where the water was between that and another part that was about 15 feet long and it ran toward the direction of the Rocks.  We didn't go out on that end of it.  We stayed on the main part of the island all evening.
That old island is there no more.  When the water gets down real low in Lake Lovelace, you can still see a few old snags sticking up where the island was.  When they put those dams in they raised the level of the lake and it covered the island and the trees finally died.
My daddy told me that one time somebody dropped him off on that island to duck hunt.  A goose flew over and he shot it.  He brought the goose home but it was so poor it wasn't worth cooking or eating.  I reckon by the time the geese flew south, they didn't have any fat left on them.
I remember Daddy would get up way early in the morning.  He'd walk down to the lake, then walk along the lake, darn near to the Rocks and back.  He'd come back with 4 or 5 squirrels and 3 or 4 ducks.  He'd have a hunting coat full of game.
Daddy used to laugh and tell about when we were living up around the Bastrop area and how he would come down here to go hunting on the weekend.  He would stay with Grandma and Grandpa Steele and get up about 4 or 4:30 in the morning to go hunting.

Grandma Steele
Grandpa Steele
One weekend, he got up real early in the morning and made coffee before going hunting. Grandpa Steele usually got up around 4:30 or 5 in the morning so Daddy took him a cup of coffee and woke him up.  

He noticed that Grandpa Steele had an odd look on his face. After a little while, Daddy took off walking down to the lake.
He was about two or three miles from the house, sitting in the woods along the lake waiting for the sun to come up.  He took out his pocket watch to see how much longer it would be and noticed the time was 1:30 in the morning!  
The old alarm clock in his room was not working right and had gone off at midnight.  
Daddy laughed every time he told that story.  He said the look on Grandpa Steele's face was so odd when he woke him up at midnight and gave him a cup of coffee.
Son McNair
My daddy and Son [Chisum] McNair were big hunting buddies.  Son told me not too long ago that daddy taught him how to hunt squirrels.  They went hunting a many a time together.
Somebody else Daddy used to go hunting with was Mr. Leonard Hamilton.  The last years that Daddy hunted was for coons.  He had stopped squirrel hunting.  He had a bunch of coon dogs and he loved to coon hunt at night.  I hunted a little, but not much.  I just didn't have the patience.
Daddy could usually find his way out of the woods, swamps, hills or wherever.  I had no sense of direction.  That was another reason why I didn't like to hunt. Heck, if I got out of sight of a road, I was lost!  I am still that way today.
One time Mickem Juneau and I ran some traps over towards Browns Lake.  We left thinking we were coming out at Billy's Bayou, near highway 15 going towards Clayton.  We ended up coming out in the opposite direction.  We were supposed to come out and be back to town by about 7 o'clock in the morning.  It was about noon before we got out of the woods.
Coon Hunting

Note:  Parts 1-27 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.

Sentimental Sunday ~ Christmas on the Island

The excitement began when we received the Sears Christmas Book by mail in the late Summer.  We each took turns passing the catalog around and picking out all the toys we wanted.  Needless to say, after having been passed around by five kids, the Sears Christmas Book was worse for wear within a week or so.

Scott Cobbin
Several weeks before Christmas our entire family would load up in our car and head for the hills to find a Southern Pine Christmas tree.  Because of the high 12' ceilings in our old house, a 5-6' tree just wouldn't do!  The boys' job was to climb a tall tree and cut several feet out of the top.  The tree top would then be strapped to the top of our car for the trip home where our carpenter friend, Scott Cobbin, would build a stand using 2x4 pieces of wood.  

Much smaller store-bought/farm raised Christmas trees like the one pictured above replaced the "tree top" Christmas trees as well as the tradition of heading to the hills in the late 60s when the oldest of us kids went off to college.  Although our grandfather captured every Christmas with his 8 mm movie camera, no one thought to take a still photograph of any of our earlier trees. 

I should mention at this point that not only did our grandfather record every Christmas morning, he also recorded every "night before" when our mother and father played Santa Claus.  We watched those home movies over and over and somehow never figured that part out!

As one brother reminded me not long ago, there was the one year that our Sears Christmas order was delayed due to heavy snow in the Chicago area.  We received toys for weeks after Christmas; causing Mama to do some fancy explaining concerning Santa Claus.

Part of the preparation for decorating our tree was the testing of lights.  Back in the 1960s, one non-functioning Christmas bulb prevented the entire string of lights from functioning.  Mama would stretch out all the strings of lights across our living room floor then plug them into electrical outlets.  If a string did not work, we had to check each bulb until we found the culprit.

Other tree decorations included icicle tinsel, Christmas balls, tinsel garland, and special ornaments such as cardboard glitter birds.

Our Christmas stockings were made from nylon which caused them to stretch and grow longer with each item added.  Oranges, tangerines and apples placed in the bottom of our stockings had them skimming the floor.

On a nearby table we always had our nativity scene with baby Jesus surrounded by angels and wise men.  We also had the Old Wooden Church on display.

Sicily Island Methodist Church

We attended Christmas Eve candlelight services at our nearby Methodist Church where we joined with our neighbors to celebrate Jesus' birth through scriptures, songs and Christmas plays.

At one particular Christmas Eve service all five of us kids were Christened into the Church; making for a special memory all of its own.

We were never allowed to open presents on Christmas Eve.  However, we were allowed to wake up as early as we wanted on Christmas morning.  One of my fondest memories is that of my middle brother tiptoeing into our rooms before daylight and whispering, "Wake up, Santa Claus has been here."

Each of us five kids designated a specific spot in the living room where Santa would leave our toys.  From a child's point of view, the living room looked like a giant toy store on Christmas morning.  Below is a short clip of yours truly on a Christmas morning in the early 1960s.

After fifty years I can still remember how the living room looked and smelled as we tiptoed in just before daylight to see what Santa Claus had left us.  The amber glow from the Christmas lights reflecting off of the pine walls....the new plastic smell of toys and baby dolls....the smell of a slow cooking turkey that Mama would slide into the oven in the wee hours of the morning.

Along with the traditional Christmas turkey, Mama prepared her usual dishes of ambrosia, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, corn, peas, and sweet potatoes.  She also made sure we had all of our favorite sweets...chocolate pies with homemade pie crusts, brownies, fudge, and divinity.

Of the many childhood memories that remain close to my heart, one of the dearest is Christmas on The Island.

Roots from the Bayou wishes everyone a peaceful and blessed Christmas!

(Portions of this post were cross-posted from Photos and Footnotes)