The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Baseball on the Island...
Just before my time, in the early 1900s, Sicily Island was quite a baseball town. I remember hearing the older people talking about playing baseball and playing against the different towns. I think the baseball diamond was over there where Mrs. Willie [Evans] Knight’s house and Mrs. Birdie Krause’s house stand today. There was a cottonwood grove out behind this house I live in and on the edge of the cottonwood grove was the baseball diamond.
|Krause house in forefront; Knight house in background|
I’ve heard the old people tell about the ball games. One story I remember hearing them tell was about Mr. Henry Peniston. Mr. Henry always wore thick glasses because he couldn’t see very well. He was playing out in the field and somebody hit a fly ball. Mr. Henry was running across the outfield to try to catch the fly ball. It turned out that a sparrow was flying over and Mr. Henry was running across the outfield to catch it thinking it was the fly ball. People laughed at him and he never played again.
Another tale that stood out in my mind because it impressed me so. It was almost like I was there and could see and hear the crowd. Sicily Island was playing Harrisonburg back in the day when Mr. Cicero Finlay was pitching baseball. They said he was a good pitcher. The game was being played in Sicily Island near the old cottonwood grove.
According to the story, Harrisonburg was just tearing up Sicily Island. The Harrisonburg folks were laughing and carrying on. Dr. Disch got up and walked out on the baseball field and said, “Everybody calm down. Be quiet and let me have your attention.”
Everybody at the baseball game got quiet and Dr. Disch continued, “I wanted everybody to be quiet because it is train time. The train will be coming through here in a few minutes. I want all these people from Harrisonburg to get to see a train. They never have seen a train before.” Of course, the Sicily Island bunch laughed and poked fun at the Harrisonburg folks. Sicily Island was getting beat at baseball but Dr. Disch fixed them up.
Nettie Blackman Fairbanks Disch
I-Bo Harris played baseball. He told me one time that he knocked a home run and Dr. Disch gave him a dollar bill. Dr. Disch was a great competitor. He was Willie and Mary Disch’s father. He was Dr. Russell Fairbanks’ step-father. Dr. Disch married Grandma Steele’s sister, Nettie [Blackman]. She had married Dr. Henry Fairbanks and when he died she married Dr. Henry Disch.
Gypsies and Tramps...
For those of us sixty years and older, we remember the gypsies. It was always at least once a year some gypsies would come through these little towns. They might stay around a week or two. The gypsies would camp down the road towards Clayton, in the swamps.
When word got out that the gypsies were in town people would warn the children to watch out for the gypsies so they couldn’t kidnap them. I never knew of a gypsy kidnapping a child.
What I remember about the gypsies is they usually had great big ole cars. They sold all kinds of things, scarves, table cloths, and things they would make out of vines, limbs and sticks.
They were dark skinned people and talked some kind of language we couldn’t understand. They could talk English when they wanted to.
When the gypsies would come to town, the merchants would get inside and lock the doors. The gypsy women would wear great ole big skirts and dresses and people said the gypsies would steal all sorts of things and hide them in their clothes. I remember seeing them in town one day and they were just running up to people and talking.
Folks said the gypsies would steal your pocketbook. Mr. Joe Francis was out on the street and two or three of those gypsy women went up to him. He was laughing at them but he was pushing them away. He wouldn’t let them get up close to him to get his money.
The gypsies stopped coming through here about the same time the tramps stopped coming through.
Tramps were hobos; old men who had left home, hitchhiking up and down the railroad catching freight trains. They would jump off the freight trains in little towns like Sicily Island and go door-to-door begging for a meal. People fed them. No one ever knew who they were or where they were from.
The last tramp I saw was sitting out on the front steps of the old Steele house. Grandma Steele took him some dinner. That was in the early 1930s.
Games, Dress-up Gone Bad and Revenge...
I remember the games we played as children. I’ve talked about a couple on earlier tapes. Most of the games were played right here in the yard where I live today.
There was a big old pump house in this yard. It had a steep sloping roof on it. We played a game called ‘Annie Over’ where we would split up into two teams, one on each side of the pump house.
A rubber ball was tossed back and forth over the roof of the pump house. We would yell, ‘Annie Over’ to let the opposing team know the ball was coming over. If someone caught the ball before it hit the ground, they could run around the pump house and throw the ball at one of the other team’s players.
Another great game was going out in the patches of clover trying to find four-leaf clovers. There were patches of clover all over this little town. I don’t think I ever found a four-leaf clover. I do remember making the clover chains, though.
I remember the time I let some of the girls dress me up like a little girl. There was a bunch of girls in the front room of Grandma Steele’s house and Evelyn Benge was setting their hair. Somehow they would make waves in their hair using hairpins.
Sarah Virginia Ogden
Somebody suggested that they ought to give me a wave. I said, “No, uh uh!” My cousin, Virginia Ogden, knew I thought Martin Enright was a handsome fellow. She whispered that to the other girls and they told me they could make me look like Martin if I let them set my hair. Hell, I went for that!
They set my hair and they all commented on how good I looked and how much I looked like Martin Enright. I kind of liked all that. They suggested I put on one my Cousin Evelyn’s dresses and go up town and fool people. I went for that, too. They even put girl’s stockings and shoes on my feet and a little hat on my head. Once they were finished, they sent me up town.
I went up town and got to the back of Montgomery’s store. The Montgomerys lived in the back of the store. Margie Montgomery [Chisum] came to the door and saw me. She made like I fooled her. She turned around and called her mother, Mrs. Annie Blair Montgomery, to come see this cute little girl. I wasn’t supposed to fool her that bad! I didn’t like that!
Mrs. Annie stepped out and said, “Oh, isn’t she cute!” Man, I went wild! Every cuss word I had learned up to that time, I said it. I got so mad that it wasn’t funny. I remember Mrs. Annie saying she was going to tell my mama.
I ran all the way back to Grandma Steele’s house. As I was running, I was trying to tear that hat and dress off. I could hear all those girls laughing. That just made me madder. They wanted me to fool people but I didn’t want to fool them THAT bad!
I think my cousin, Virginia, was the instigator of a lot of those things. She was four years older than me. Oh, she got such a kick out of me dressing up like a girl and really enjoyed laughing at me.
Evelyn Steele Ogden
I got even with her.
She went out to the fig tree in the backyard and filled a bowl with figs. When she brought them back inside, she washed and peeled them then put sugar all over them before putting them in the icebox. She wanted to get them real cold before she ate them.
Her sister Evelyn and I went in there and we got one fig each. They were so good, we went back and got the whole bowl and ate all of them. I can remember Virginia letting out a squall and a scream when she went to get her bowl of figs to eat and all she found was an empty bowl.
I’ve tried to make up for that stunt in recent years. I send her fig preserves every year.
|Bruce, Virginia and Evelyn|
Note: Parts 1-29 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.