March 23, 2014

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.

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