March 31, 2014

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 41

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Butchering Cows...
In the 1930s, Mr. Buck Smith had a meat market.  He would purchase a yearling or calf from folks out in the country and bring it over to the old stand of cottonwoods out behind our house and butcher it.     
When I was a child, I watched him butcher a many a cow.  The carcass would be hauled off to his store where it would be cut up into different cuts of meat.  I even remember the people he would bring with him to help with the butchering.
Sometimes he would bring Albert Shaw and other times he would bring Little Harry Jenkins.  A lot of times he would bring an old black man off the Peck place named Major Brass.
Major Brass rode an ole horse that had the longest legs I ever saw.  I’d see him riding past our house; back and forth, going and coming from the Peck place.  He lived behind the Gillis house in the Gillis quarters where former slaves lived.
Gillis House
Cattle and hogs ran loose in town back in those days.   When Mr. Buck would butcher a cow, other cows would smell the blood and come running from way on the other side of the Village.  The cows would bellow and low.  They would hook and fight at each other.  Late into the evening, long after the butchering was over, you could still hear the cows bellowing over in that stand of trees.
A hog law was passed in the 1940s that forced people to pen their hogs to prevent them from wandering loose in the Village.  Up until the town was incorporated in the 1950s, cows continued to roam all over the area.
Cotton Pickers, Carpenters and School Teachers...
There were times when I remember cotton pickers being paid fifty cents a pound for cotton that was hand picked out of the cotton fields.  There weren’t any cotton picking machines.  It was all picked by hand.  An average cotton picker could pick about 200 pounds a day.  A pretty good cotton picker might pick 250-270 pounds of cotton a day.  There were people who could actually pick 400 pounds or more a day.
The average carpenter probably made close to seventy-five cents an hour.  School teachers made something like $75 a month.  The principal was paid a little more.
Of course things were cheaper back in the early to mid-1930s.  Seventy-five dollars a month would buy a lot of things.  You could buy a bottle of ketchup for a dime, a big box of matches for a nickel, and a cold drink for a nickel.
A 25 pound sack of meal went for about 40 cents and a 25 pound sack of flour went for maybe 85 cents.
A pair of overalls cost about 1.50 and a pair of dress shoes went for 4 or 5 dollars.  Cigarettes cost about 17 cents a pack and gasoline was around 13 cents a gallon.
Country Doctors and Medicine...
People didn’t have the money to pay doctors.  The country doctors who worked out in the rural areas were paid with hens, eggs, cows, and vegetables out of gardens.
I’m remembering the kinds of medicine doctors gave to people back in those days.  I don’t remember the ailment, but I do remember being given Calomel.  It made me sick at my stomach.  Maybe it was given for malaria, I don’t remember.
Epsom Salts, Syrup Pesin, Sal Hepatica and Black Draught were given for laxatives.  There were two brands of aspirins, Bayer and St. Joseph.  ST37 was hydrogen peroxide and it came in a blue bottle.  I didn’t mind my mother putting ST37 on my cuts because it didn’t hurt.   
Mercurochrome was another medicine used on cuts.  I was told it didn’t burn but it looked so much like the bottles of iodine that I didn’t trust it.  Iodine was alcohol based and when you put it on a cut it set you on fire!
Children with sore throats had their throats mopped with silver nitrate.  I had mine mopped several times.  Dr. Gordon would have an ole stick of some kind that looked like a sucker stick.  It had a piece of cotton on the end of it and he would put the stick down in some kind of red looking medicine.  A spoon was used to hold your mouth open while the doctor mopped your throat.
There was a type of vitamin back in those days called cod liver oil.  I never did take it but a lot people gave their children cod liver oil.
Vick’s Salve.  Vick’s Salve was probably here when the world began!  As far back as I can remember we had Vick’s Salve.
Luden’s cough drops were sold in a little orange pasteboard container.
 A cough medicine called 666 and Groves Chill Tonic were sold over the counter in most stores. 

Carter’s Little Liver Pills and Doan’s Pills for back ache were other medicines you could buy in the stores.
Home Remedies...
Apparently after a long winter, people believed they needed to get their bodies straight and so they took all types of things to clean their bodies up in the spring time.
In the spring of the year, Poke would come up in the fields.  Poke leaves were used to make a brew and given to children to clean them out.  I remember seeing Mickum and J. E. Juneau eating raisins in the spring time.  Their daddy gave them a box of raisins to eat because he said it would purify their blood.
I remember hearing about little babies that wouldn’t eat or couldn’t hold food on their stomachs.  One story I heard told was that Walon and Addie Mae Seal’s son, Walon, Jr., had gotten really sick and couldn’t eat.  They let Miss Mamie Bryan take him to her house for a couple of months.  Miss Mamie started feeding him baked sweet potatoes.  The story went that the sweet potatoes brought Walon, Jr. out it.

Note:  Parts 1-40 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.

March 28, 2014

Friday's Faces From the Past ~ Whitlock's Barber Shop, 1941

Whitlock's Barber Shop

Jess Whitlock, Barber (standing behind chair)
Johnnie Bourke (seated)
Vernon Whitlock, son of Jess (standing)

February 1941

A special 'thank you' to Ouida Seal Bourke for allowing me to share this photograph.

March 23, 2014

Military Monday ~ The Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial located in front of the Catahoula Parish Courthouse in Harrisonburg

In Memory of those who gave their lives in
 World War I, II, Korean Action and the Vietnam War

World War I
Perry D. Alexander
Fred D. Baker
John W. Blair
Lewis Brooks
Silas W. Book
Benjamin Burrell
John G. Chevallier
Albert N. Dorsey
Lathere Finnis
Jimmie Gordon
Willie Jordan
James M. Knapp
William E. Lee, Jr.
Perry Little
Joseph E. Montpelier
Curtis Mosley
Wesley B. Paulk
Cleveland Ray
James B. Smith
Robert H. Smith
James F. Trichel
Wash Whitehead, Jr.
Tollie R. Womack
Will Woods
William Young

World War II
William J. Adroin
Elious Bass, Jr.
Raymond C. Bell
Oscar F. Blair
Johnnie F. Bourke
Charles E. Boyd, Jr.
Theodore P. Bradford
Robert L. Bruster
Wallace O. Cloy
Shelton T. Cockerham
Burton Collins
Charlie Cooper
Murele Dalton
Alton Davis
Ervin N. Denny
David C. Dixon
Kaga A. Doughty
Charlie Drumgoole
Lloyd G. Ellis
W. A. Esterling
Marcy M. Francis, Jr.
Herman Franklin
Sherman Franklin
William F. Gardner
James A. Golman, Jr.
Elton E. Gorham
Stanley W. Hailey
William M. Hawkins
Bobby Ray Hawthorne
Henry C. Hooter
Garlin Huff
David E. Jeter
Ray Jones
Joseph A. Jenkins, Jr.
Alex Johnson
George W. Johnson
William W. Kendrick
Spencer Kennedy
Hillory Laffon
John W. Rayl
Joseph C. Lawrence
Robert E. Lee, Jr.
Clint Littleton
Mack Littin
Henry C. Mann
Laster Mills
Johnnie Newsom
Paul A. Newton
Clyde W. Ogden
Lincoln C. Parker
James R. Randall
Roy D. Robertson
Sam W. Rutledge
Dewey C. Sanson
Willie E. Sikes
Earl L. Slaughter
Sammy R. Smith
Leonard Straward
Robert L. Taylor
Wilbur Tidwell
Fredrick M. Washburne
Charlie W. Watson
Charles Watson
Odis White
James Williams
Earl W. Yancey
Sullivan Wilson

Korean Action
John W. Johnson
Robert V. McHale
Thomas Milton Tradewell

Vietnam War
Budrow Bass, Jr.
Roger E. Denny
Howard Lee Early
Hubert Aaron Erwin
Jerry Roy Long
Dave Mayes, Jr.
Jimmy Ronald Walton
James Hardy White

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 40

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Roads, fences and trees... 
Back in the early to mid-1930s the only roads right here in the Village had gravel on them.  The school house road that ran from the bank to the school had gravel.  The street going up towards the depot had gravel and so did the triangle.

School House Road

Depot Road
When you got to the triangle you could go one of three ways.  You could go east to Clayton, north to Wisner and west on Highway 8 through town towards Leland and on to Harrisonburg.  The highway going towards Clayton and Wisner were both part of Highway 15.
Former site of the Triangle (facing South)
All of the other roads were dirt.  They were called lanes or alleys.  Since the 1930s some of the alleys have been broadened to become streets.  Sometime in the late 1950s or 1960s, they started paving the streets. 
I remember one of the old lanes very well.  I doubt if it was eight feet wide from fence to fence.  This lane went from my house down to the bluff and ran by the area where Nathan Ashley and Sonny Smith now live and ended where Mr. Whitlock used to live; just before the next block over.  I walked and later rode a bicycle up and down that lane a many a time going to play with my buddy, Vernon Whitlock.

Former Lane to the Bluff
In dry weather, the few vehicles on the Island at the time could go most anywhere in the Village on the dirt roads.  Most people had wagons and horses.
The fences that people had around their houses and gardens were mostly picket made out of wood.  Posts were put into the ground, rails were attached and then slats of wood would be nailed to the railings.  The slats were maybe ½ inch thick and the tops were always pointed.
There were wire fences or what we called hog wire fences.  Locust posts were used to nail the wire up.  These fences lasted a lot longer and you didn’t have to worry about wood rotting. 
One or two yards had smooth picket fences that were painted.  One yard that comes to mind was Mr. Maurice Saltzman’s. 
There used to be Chinaberry trees in just about every yard here in the Village.  Those are fast disappearing.  You don’t see many Chinaberry trees around here anymore.  They had little green, hard balls on them.  They weren’t good for anything that I know of.  
When the berries dried up and turned yellow in the Fall, the robins that used to come down here in the Winter would eat them and get drunk on them.  They would fall out of the trees and flop around on the ground. 
There was a time when you didn’t see robins until cold weather.  Now you see them all the time.  Some must have decided to stay in the South year-round.
Cottonwood Tree
There were lots of Elm trees here in town.  There were several groves of huge cottonwood trees.  We called the cottonwood trees hanging trees because of their great big limbs that grew low to the ground.  To my knowledge I don’t know of a single cottonwood tree still standing here in the Village.
Gum trees and Sycamore trees were everywhere.  There were some huge Sycamore trees in different areas of the Village.  Hackberry trees, Water Oak trees and Sweet Pecan trees were also here in the Village.  Thorn trees could be found in the swamps, bayous and around Lake Lovelace.  Those thorns would be three or four inches long and they could stick through a rubber boot, all the way through your foot. 
Staying cool in the Summer time and warm in the Winter time...
We weren’t the poorest people in town but we didn’t have a fan.  The houses were built with tall ceilings with lots of windows.  The windows had screens on them so you could raise the windows up.  The screens on the outside of the windows kept out the bugs, flies and mosquitoes.  We kept the windows open and had handheld fans that we called church fans. 
In the winter time we had natural gas but a lot of people still used fireplaces.  Folks using fireplaces would just go out in the swamps and cut a tree down when they needed firewood.  It didn’t matter whose property the tree was on.  Most property owners didn’t care.  It was just the way things were back in the 1930s.

Note:  Parts 1-39 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.

Sentimental Sunday ~ Post Office Box 61

Although I grew up in a small rural village, it was my friends in the outlying countryside who had mailboxes in front of their houses and driveways.  Inside the village we had an actual post office with combination boxes.  You can read more about the history of the different Island post offices in my post, 'Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 34'.

Some of my first memories of the post office include the postmaster, Mr. Carey Fairbanks.  Mr. Carey had huge deer heads mounted high upon the walls; one on the customer side of the counter and another on the office side of the counter.  As a child, I'm not sure which intimidated me more, the ominous looking deer heads with eyes that seemed to track my every move or Mr. Carey with his gravely sounding voice and stern look.

When I first married and began a family of my own, we shared the same post office box with my parents.  It was during this time that I learned Mr. Carey and I were cousins and that we shared the same birthday.  I remember walking into the post office on my twenty-sixth birthday and wishing him a happy birthday.  He was celebrating his sixty-second birthday and we both got a chuckle out of the reversal of the years.

I don't recall ever seeing the combination to our post office box written down.  If you asked me to recite the combination, I couldn't.  I still can't.  Yet if I stood in front of the post office box, I could twirl the knob in all the different directions and within seconds the box would open.  I always found this odd.

In the late 1980s, I moved away from the Island; living in another area of the state before eventually moving out of state.  Visits home rarely included trips to the post office.

In 2002, I was home for my father's funeral.  One of my brothers and I took a walk around the Island and ended up on the street near the post office.  He glanced over at me and asked if I remembered the combination.  We walked inside the building and up to our old post office box.  I twirled the knob without any hesitation.  The number of repetitive turns in different directions and the letters where the pointer should stop all came naturally.  The box opened right up.

Sicily Island Post Office
Several days ago, I was home for a short visit and stopped by the post office with a friend.  While the building itself hasn't changed in all these years, other changes were evident.  The mounted deer heads had long since been removed.  There was no stern looking Mr. Carey behind the counter as he passed from this life back in January of 1992.

Post Office Box 61 no longer belongs to my family.  The combination lock had been removed and replaced with a key lock.

On this Sentimental Sunday, I leave you with the following:

3 right turns, stop between G and H
2 left turns, stop between C and D
1 right turn, stop between I and J

And yes, I had to look at the picture and imagine myself twirling the knob.

March 19, 2014

Fort Beauregard in Photographs ~ 2014

Historical Marker is located near the Courthouse in Harrisonburg

Veterans Memorial Park Entrance

Bridge over the Ouachita River in the background

Dedicated in memory of those who gave their lives in World War I, World War II and the Korean Action

Zoomed in photograph of the Ouachita River in the background
View from the top of Ft. Beauregard

View of Ft. Beauregard from the opposite side of the Ouachita River

Located on the opposite side of the Ouachita River

March 16, 2014

Amanuensis Monday ~ The Stories That Should Be Told, Part 39

The following transcription is from a series of recordings my father made in the early 1990s:
Woods and Swamps...
In the late 1930s, us boys started venturing out into the woods and swamps.  We could walk for miles and miles before we went from one end of the swamps to the other.  
There were usually open forests because cattle ran loose in there and they kept all the underbrush down.  There weren’t any briar bushes or little saplings growing, just open forests of hardwoods.  Beautiful forests.
We would roam around all out in those woods and swamps.  Even before we were old enough to have guns to go hunting, we’d go to the edge of the forests.   I mainly remember seeing and hearing all the birds that lived in the forests, especially the red birds.  The birds would feed on the red halls I mentioned earlier.  
Along the head of the lake there were big willow trees lining the bank.  Their limbs would cast shadows over the edge of the lake.  You could hear mockingbirds and red birds singing from the dark hidden places up under the willow tree branches.  
The sounds would come out across the water.  Those are the kinds of things I remember from around the lake, the meadows and fields.  The golden broom sage would blow in the breeze and look like waves. 
There were always grown people out in the forests.  They would be out there cutting trees or camping.  You could smell the wood smoke throughout the forest.  It was a good smell.  It would make you hungry just smelling the wood smoke. 
I used to like to go out in the fields and meadows behind the school over on the Peck place.  Late in the evenings you could hear the field larks.  A sound I loved to hear.  You could hear the field larks calling to one another from hidden places. 
I remember being out on the lake and seeing hundreds of turtles on logs and old fallen trees.  You could hear brim popping out in the water as they would feed.  I’ve seen huge white cranes flapping lazily across the lake.  I haven’t seen any of those huge white cranes in years. 
Lake Lovelace
I also remembering being on the lake when there wasn’t a breeze and the water looked like glass.  It would be really quiet then all of a sudden you’d hear, “Pow!”  It would be one of those huge alligator gars rising up out of the water, sailing through the air ten or twelve feet and landing back on the water.  When they would hit that water it would sound like a cannon went off. 
Deer Hunting...
In the 1930s through the 1950s hunting deer was just like it had been back in the teens and twenties.  Most of the deer hunters kept deer dogs.  In the Fall of the year, when deer hunting season opened, you could hear the dogs running every day.  Along about the late 1950s and early 1960s, the forests and swamp areas were pushed down to plant soybean fields.  
Along Lake Lovelace...
About midway between town and the Peck place there was a place on the bay of the lake called Nichol’s Point.  It was on the town side of the lake.  There was no point as such that stuck out in the lake.  There was just a spot along there that they called Nichol’s Point. 
The story goes that a Mr. Nichols [once lived in the Gillis house] waded off in the lake at that point and cut his own throat and drowned.  I’ve heard from the old folks that Mr. Nichols had been gambling and had lost lots of money.  He was despondent and that’s what happened. 
Lake Lovelace
Almost directly across from Nichol’s point, on the other side of the lake, the bank of the lake kind of sticks out in the water. 
They called this area Barfish Point.  A barfish is a type of bass.  It used to be a lot of barfish in the lake.  I never hear of anybody catching barfish out of the lake anymore.
On down the lake past these two points and on past Stack Island was a place called Squyres Ford.  When the lake got real low in the Fall of the year you could cross over on horseback.  This was prior to the dam being put up between this area and the Ouachita River in 1954.  I imagine there were men that knew where Squyres Ford was back in the 1930s. 
The spots that I remember along Lake Lovelace...
  • We’ll start with the head of the lake, right here where it starts close to town.
  • Mills Bayou runs into the lake.
  • The next two places would be Barfish Point on one side and Nichol’s Point on the other side of the lake.
  • The bay of the lake.  Some people called it Peck’s Bay because of its location.
  • Across from the bay of the lake is where Billy’s Bayou runs into the lake. 
  • Then there’s the island.
  • A little farther down, Cash Bayou runs into the lake.
  • Next you come to The Rocks where gravel is on the lake bed.
  • Goose Bayou runs into the lake.
  • After Goose Bayou you come to Stack Island.
  • On the other side of Stack Island, on down the lake, Black Bayou runs into the lake
  • Somewhere down in that area is Squyres Forde.
Moonlight Picnics on Lake Lovelace...
Lake Lovelace
Back in the 1930s about half of this little village turned out for the moonlight picnics on Lake Lovelace.  I believe it was on Thursday evenings. 

Families would go down to the lake just before dark.  We carried picnic lunches.  The children and some of the grown-ups would go swimming. 

About 1935, my mother, daddy and I were going down to Lake Lovelace one evening for a moonlight picnic.  On this particular occasion, we were driving down the gravel road to the lake in Grandpa Steele’s old car.  
We got about halfway to the Peck place and some colored people had run off the road in an old car and hit an electric power pole that ran alongside the road.  
They broke the pole and the line was down.  Along the field where the line had fallen, the grass was popping and smoking and burning.  The line was also laying across their old car.  The people that had been inside the car were outside of it and some had a few cuts but none of them were badly hurt.  It was obvious that they had been drinking. 
We stopped and daddy got out.  Mother and I stayed in the car.  Daddy told the driver of the car that he was going on up to the Peck house to use their telephone to call Jonesville and ask for a repairman to come fix the line.  I remember Daddy telling them several times to stay away from the car. 
We went on up to the Peck house and Daddy called Jonesville to report the trouble.  After Daddy made the call, we went on down to the lake.  We had been there for fifteen or twenty minutes when some other people arrived and told us a colored man had gotten killed down the road.  They said the man had tried to get back in the car to try to crank it back up.  When he touched the car, he was electrocuted. 

Note:  Parts 1-38 of 'The Stories That Should Be Told' can be found in the Tags List on the right-hand side of the blog.