December 24, 2013

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.

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