December 18, 2013

Childhood Remembrances of Flora Crawford Eschenburg, Part 3

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 Three - Customs
Almost every farmer raised his own food.  We had chickens and eggs.  The hogs provided ham and bacon as well as sausage and lard.  The cows provided the milk, butter and beef.  
In the garden, we raised sweet potatoes, peanuts, watermelons, and cantaloupes.  We raised sugar cane and had a syrup mill with which Papa made syrup for our family and for the community.
The mill was turned by mules pulling the pole that caused the inside grinders to turn.  Men stood outside poking stalks of cane that had been stripped of the fodder into the grinder.  A spout directed the juice into a vat.  There was a large sectioned pan into which the juice was poured. This pan was over a furnace that heated the juice to a boiling stage, producing syrup.
It was such great fun to get to go to the cane mill after school.  Papa would let us bring friends home with us and give them a drink of cane juice.  This was a great treat for us and for our friends.
Mama made lye hominy from corn.  This was another great treat.  It tasted differently from the hominy bought in cans today.  She also made lye soap, using ashes and lye and some other ingredients, most of which I can't remember.
Hog killing day was a big event in our lives.  Usually two or three neighbors came to help us and five or six hogs were dressed out in one day.  The meat was salted down for a few days and smoked with hickory wood for preservation and for good flavor.  The intestines were cleaned and used for sausage casings and, of course, for chittlins.  Some of the meat was ground and seasoned to stuff in the casings.  This was smoked for the most delectable sausage ever tasted. Our dad had a talent for seasoning things just right.  Souse (or hoghead cheese) was made from the hogs' heads which we boiled.  We also pickled the pigs' feet.
We did buy a few things like coffee, sugar and flour.  However, the coffee was bought green, then roasted and ground at home.  We made our own corn meal from the corn we raised and ground at the grist mills.
For light, we used coal oil lamps fueled with kerosene.  In 1924, our family bought and installed a dynamo system that gave us our electricity.  We were among the very first, and few, that had such a system to light the house.  What a luxury those electric lights were.  This system also made it possible for us to have a pump to pump water into a tank.  We got our first real bathtub with running water.
When a man built a house, the chimney was often made of clay and straw with sticks forming the structural supports.  We had a brick chimney at our home, but when my brother Bud married, he and Papa built a small house and made the chimney from mud and moss which they shaped over a wooden frame.
When new ground needed to be cleared, it meant cutting all the trees and brush so that the land could be used for farming.  The farmer would have a "Log Rolling".  All the neighbors would come, bringing their whole family.  The men joined in the cutting of the trees and brush while the women cooked the meal.  Most of the women brought food already prepared.  A large table was spread outside and we enjoyed a neighborhood feast.  Of course, there were errands for the younger ones to do, like taking water and coffee to the workmen.  It was an enjoyable day, as well as a work day.
Everyone made their mattresses and quilts and often their feather beds.  I remember having to pick the down from the geese to make feather beds, and there was nothing like sleeping on a feather bed in the winter.  When quilting time came, the women gave quiltings at different homes until everyone had their quilts finished.  
One thing that stands out in my memory is that people helped each other whenever and whatever the need.  If anyone was sick, it was not unusual for the women to go "sit up" with the sick person, sometimes staying all day or all night if needed. 
My school teacher in the sixth and seventh grade was Georgia Westbrook [Peniston].  She liked to tell us what things were like when she was growing up.  She said her father made caskets for those who couldn't afford to buy ready-made ones.  To make the casket, a pine or cypress board was shaped to be more narrow at each end than in the middle.  Then, to make the side pieces curve to fit this, the boards were placed in boiling water to make them pliable.  Then the sides were nailed to the bottom board.  The top board that sealed the casket was the same shape as the bottom board.  I remember seeing homemade caskets in our community.  I think our father made one for a neighbor.
At Christmas, we would find and cut our own tree and gather holly.  We always hung our stockings by a chimney.  However, children did not get the lavish things they get today.  We usually got an apple, an orange, some nuts and candy.  The girls usually got a doll, although sometimes they were rag dolls made by our mothers.  The boys often got fireworks.  Very few toys were received, but I think this served to make us more inventive.
We made our own playthings, often with spools, corn cobs, shucks, and scrap lumber.  However, at Christmas, all the treats were appreciated because they were not always available at other times of the year.
Telephones came to Sicily Island around 1918.  There were two in town.  One was at the Chambers Boarding House and the other was at Steele's store.  
Former Steele store
We got our first car around 1925.  About 1928, we got our first radio, but not everyone could listen at the same time because it had only earphones instead of a loud speaker.

 To Be Continued...


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 1-2 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.

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