Saturday, December 29, 2007

Growing Up - Ages 10-12 – Part Two

My mother had been a widow since I was fifteen months old. There was a World War I veteran who lived a couple miles up Chestnut Hill Road. He was one of George’s hair customers. He had his eye on Mother. One day she saw him walking across the field to our house. She grabbed me and we hid under the bed because she did not really like him. He came to house, knocked on the door for awhile, and then walked right on in. We never had locks on our doors. He walked through the house into the kitchen and sat down and ate some food. When he got through he went right back across the field. We ended up being under the bed for about thirty minutes which seemed like an entire afternoon. She avoided him so the two of them never got together.

When Mother would go to Statesville to shop in Belk’s Department Store, I would have to hold her pocketbook. That sure was embarrassing for me to hold a handbag; I would hide so no one could see me. After shopping she would always take me down to Holmes Drug Store and buy me a big five-cent ice cone and sometimes a fountain coke.

During the summer, about once a month on Saturday, we would get to go to town. Mother would give us each a quarter and we would start walking the nine miles to town. Many times on our way to town, we would meet other boys going to there too. If we were lucky a car or truck would come our way and offer to give us a ride. They would take as many boys as their vehicle would hold. We would always let the boy that lived the longest distance from town get in first to assure him a ride.

Once we arrived to town, we would go to the nine cent movie. After that, we would go down to the Post Office Lunch behind the Statesville Court House and get a baloney sandwich, Moon Pie and a Pepsi Cola. We would have one cent left to buy a BB Bat sucker. Early evening we would head home. On the way after dark, we would stop and get us a watermelon from someone’s patch. All the farmers knew what we would do so sometime they would hide somewhere around the watermelon patch. When we got a melon, they would use their shot gun and shoot up in the air and the pellets coming down would scare us to death and we would run for about a mile or two to get away. We always carried our melon with us to enjoy when we were at a safe distance. Listen as I share this story.

Opossum hunting was a big pastime in our life back on the farm. We would put oil in the lanterns, stuff our pockets with cold biscuits and anything else we found we could take from the kitchen to eat, take the old hunting dog, and head out into the woods after dark. It was during the night when the opossums came out looking for food. Sometimes the dog would get on the trail of one of them opossums and run it for an hour before it would climb up a tree. It was at that time when we would climb the tree and get it down. Sometimes that was not very easy since we were fighting a mad opossum up in a tree while trying to hold on to keep from falling out and sometimes the opossum would win. After we caught one or two of them, we would put them in a pen and feed them for a couple weeks to fatten them up. When it was time, we would clean the critters and Mother would cook them. Opossum is one food that I never did get hungry enough to eat! Instead, I always told mom that I rather have an old cold sweet tatter but she always had something else for me to eat. She never did make us eat anything that we did not like or want to eat.

I was at Oakdale School when I realized that three of my older brothers were courting the three older sisters of my buddy Calvin Carter. I guess they met and got together when we lived at the Holton place. I was so young I did not know what was going on. Fred married Bona Lee and Howard married Narene. They moved to Kannapolis to work in the cotton mill since work was scarce in Statesville. When George married Beatrice and they stayed with us for a while. Beatrice had a job working in a hosiery mill in Statesville and George got a job cutting right-of-ways through the mountains for the power company. He had four men working with him and they would leave and be gone for about a month at a time cutting and camping. One time they were coming home for the weekend in an old Ford truck. It had no air so they had the windshield pushed up so air would come directly at them. As they were coming down the road they ran upon a swarm of honey bees. They said that they had about a million bees all over them! When they got home we just had to laugh at them when they were describing the situation and seeing all their stings.

Paul married Edith Kincade who he met in Kannapolis. J.D. married Colleen Stewart, from the west part of Statesville, a while after he was discharged from the Navy. J.D., Albert, and Paul would give Mother money to help her out a little while at the mill and after the three joined the Navy in 1939. The war was going on over in Europe and people were being drafted. They wanted to be together so they joined up to get what they wanted. After their basic training was over they came home. That is the first time in my life that I had white underwear: tee shirts, white shorts, and white socks. On that trip home, Albert took me to town to eat at Fraley's Cafe. He bought me a great big t-bone steak and taught me how to cut it up to eat. Albert later became Chief Petty Officer, a cook in the Navy.

During the fall at harvest time, we would gather our entire corn crop and make a big pile in the backyard. All of the neighbors would come over and help us shuck corn. Before J.D., Albert, and Paul left home, we had about a hundred bushels of corn to shuck. I remembered that my older brothers would put several small bottles of corn liquor and a few red ears of corn in the pile. When one of the boys would find a red ear, he would go and kiss his choice of one of the girls that were helping to shuck. The corn liquor would be saved and consumed after the shucking of the corn. The older women would be at the house cooking. They would make a big pot full of chicken and dumplings; the yellow chicken fat would make the dumplings really taste good. They would also cook fried chicken, all kinds of vegetables, and cakes and pies. Almost always after the corn shucking we would have a square dance. The corn liquor jug would be uncorked and passed around to the men in the group. We would take up the rug in the living room, put some corn meal on the wooden floor, and dance way into the night. At this time I was little and could not stay awake until the end so I don't know what went on after I went to sleep. The square dancing went on about every Saturday night at someone’s house but I did not get to go to those dances. We had corn shucking parties at about every farmer’s home in the area.

Winter was hog killing time and once again folks in our area would help other families. I remember the time I was old enough to be the one to cut the hog’s throat and let it bleed. J.D. shot the hog in the head and then it was time for me to be a man and do my job. I looked at the hog and handed the knife to J.D. telling him that I could not do it. That is the time that I found out that I was still a kid and not quite ready to grow up.

I learned a few lessons the hard way that have stuck with me throughout my life. As a man in his eighties, I am still learning the hard way. It makes me realize that I cannot do anything on my own and I need God’s help every day and without Him I can do nothing. Understanding that gives me no reason to complaint; even my bad days are good.

When my brothers left home to go back on duty, they gave us a 1931 Ford car. The used car cost them $25. Mark was fourteen at this time and he could drive it because back then you could drive all over the country on those old dirt roads without a license. If you decided you wanted a license, it cost $1.00 and did not have an expiration date. When we could get it started, we drove that old Ford to the store and church. We had to patch a tire about every time that we drove it; we got so good at it we could patch a tire without taking it off the car. We kept that old car for a couple years. Other than the tires, gasoline, and oil, I don't think we spent a nickel on it. Albert came home on leave and bought a 1936 Ford Coupe so he would have something to drive when he dated his girl, Nicki, who was one of Calvin Carter’s sisters; he did not marry her. When he went back off leave, he left that car with us to use. We sold the old 1931 Ford for $30.00. Cars were getting scarce about this time because everything was being made for the war effort. Every time one of the brothers would come home he would bring us more underwear, shoes, blue jeans, shirts and other things. Now we were really living! During most of the war we kept on farming the old farm. Mark and I made a pretty good team; we would fuss and fight a little but that just got us ready to fight when we went into the Navy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Growing Up - Ages 10-12 – Part One

Oakdale Elementary School was located about three miles east of Statesville, NC on US-64; it was a three room school until the system added on a lunch room. I was in the third grade and one of the big boys. We had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in one room, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in another room, and the 7th graders in the third room. We had three teachers, I do not remember the first grade teacher but Mrs. Fowler was my teacher and Mrs. Evans was the seventh grade teacher and also the principal. We had some good times in the little three room school. The Bible was read the first thing in the morning, we had prayer, and we pledged allegiance to the flag. Afterwards we started our lessons.

We enjoyed outside activities: kickball, baseball, marbles, dodge ball, jump rope, racing, hopscotch, and horseshoes. Sometimes we would sneak into the woods and climb trees. If we could get any girls to come in the woods, we would scare them and make them holler, which could have gotten us into trouble. When we did get in trouble, we would get a spanking by Mrs. Evans. One time it was in the middle of the cold winter and the old wood stove was red hot, a student put some black pepper in the eye of the stove lid. Our eyes started to burn so we all had to go outside for about an hour and about froze. Mrs. Evans told us that if we could find out who did this mischievous deed, we could take care of him. See more pictures of Oakdale Elementary School.

Each year in the fall before school started we had to get vaccinated. We would walk about four miles to Beavers Store to get the shots. It sure was a long walk knowing that we were going to get a couple needles stuck in our arms and that we had to walk home with two sore arms! The needles that they used back then would be used over and over until they were flat on the end. They would use them, put them in a steamer, and use them again and again.

Franklin Roosevelt
was president in 1939 and he got a lot of things into the schools. We would get little bars of Life Buoy Soap which was good because before this time we only had the lye soap that we would make from hog fat and Red Devil Lye. Another thing we got was a small tube of Colgate Toothpaste and a tooth brush. This was the time I first used store-bought tooth paste and brush; before then we used baking soda and a little salt. We would get a small limb from a gum tree and chew on it until it could be used as a tooth brush.

This year I had my first school picture taken. I wore the best clothes that I had for the picture. Throughout my time in school, Mother did all of the sewing to make clothes for us. She could just sit down and make a shirt from a feed sack without a pattern. She would save our old worn-out overalls to use as patches for the new ones. We would get new ones in the fall when we sold our cotton and by early spring we would wear holes in the knees or somewhere else and she would have to patch them. By the time school was out for the summer our overalls had plenty of patches! Our schools had two summer breaks the first one was for planting time and working the crops and the other one was in the fall for harvest time. I was in the seventh grade before I got my first pair of dress pants which were light brownish color almost khaki. They sure went well with the big work shoes. I never minded wearing the clothes I had because most of the other kids were in about the same situation. Mother always taught us that folks really looked at what was inside a person, not just the outside. She said that if the inside was right, everyone would always respect you.

When I was ten years old in the fall after all of our bills were paid, we bought a battery powered Zenith radio. This was our entertainment for about thirty minuets to an hour each night. On Saturday evening we would gather around it to listen to the Grand Old Opera. The battery lasted until Christmas; when it finally died, we put the radio up until we could save enough money to buy a new battery. In the meantime, we would go visit friends that had a radios and sit around it to listen to everything. Sometimes we would have ten to fifteen people around one radio. My favorite thing was when Kate Smith sang "God Bless America." Some of my other favorites included: Lum and Abner, Amos and Andy, Gene Autry, and one of the best was The Lone Ranger and his Indian partner Tonto. They could solve all of the crimes in the old west. The Lone Ranger had a fan club which didn’t cost anything to join. Mark and I joined and received a membership card and a secret code so we could solve the mystery each week. Older members of the club received silver bullets. This had us listening to this show on the radio each week. We would not use the radio for just any show; we had to save the batteries for the important ones. Mother sometimes would listen to the
news but she let our programs come ahead of anything that she would have enjoyed. The radio lasted for about three years before it blew some tubes. We could not get it fixed so we threw it away.

Shortly after that, Albert bought us another one when he came home on leave. He left a couple batteries which lasted a long time until we could afford to buy our own. When our friend’s batteries would die, they would come over to our house and listen to our radio. No one ever lock their doors. When we would go visit, if the screen door was latched on the inside they were home but if it was latched on the outside they were away from the house and we could just go on in and help ourselves to some food. No one would ever think of stealing anything. Listen as I tell this story.

We had a chance to get a copy of the book of John by memorizing John 3:16 and if we learned the whole first chapter we would get a New Testament. Everyone at this school was from a Christian family even though many did not get to go to church very often. To be a Christian group we surly received a lot of spankings. I think some of us were in trouble about all of the time for talking, pulling girls hair, and shooting spit ball at each other. Sometimes one of the spit balls would hit the teacher; that is when we were in big trouble!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Growing Up - Ages 7-9

We did make it through the winter of 1934 without any of us starving. In fact, we might have gained weight. Several years before this, my older sister Edna had met and married Seth Sigmon and I had two nieces, Mildred and Ruth. This made me feel older. My brothers Fred and Howard joined the Marines and George; my oldest brother had left home to make it on his own. Still at home were Ola, J.D., Albert, Paul, James William (died at the age of 40 days back at Long Island) and Mark and me, the youngest one of the bunch. We tried to work the poor old farm as much as we could. That summer was so bad that Ola finished high school and moved to Kannapolis, NC to be near Edna and went to work in Cannon Mills. She later married Collis Christian which gave me some more nieces and nephews. Not much happened the rest of that year. I started school in the first grade at Celeste Henkel Elementary School. I was there for only a couple months because we moved away from the poor land back across town to the old Holton Farm. It was another two story house, not haunted, on Chestnut Grove Road only a couple miles from the Propst Farm. After we moved, I started to attend Oakdale Elementary School which was three miles east of Statesville, NC on US 64 and met Calvin Carter who lived across the road on another farm. He was my best friend for many years. We worked and played together until his family moved about ten miles away. After that I only saw him when we were in school together for twelve years. We did not get to visit many people because we did not have transportation except the horse and wagon and walking. Sometimes we would get a ride from someone that had a car or truck; it was not unusual for us to walk five miles to visit someone or go to a store.

One time at the Ostwalt Farm, my brother
Albert wanted me to go to Mack Moose's store, pictured here still standing. I told him that I had no money and he said just come on, so I went with him. On the way, we had to pass through a women's farm. Albert had a pocket full of shelled corn and when we passed through the barnyard he started dropping grains of corn on the ground. One of the chickens took the bait and started following us into the woods. When we were there, Albert took out a fish hook and put a grain of corn on it. When the chicken grabbed it, he pulled that chicken into the woods and we took it to the store and traded it for some candy for me but I don't know what else he got. He told me that if I ever told Mom about it he would beat me up. This blog entry is the first time that I ever told anyone!

We had two stores: Leabers store about four miles up the road at the corner of Old Mocksville and Chestnut Hills Roads and Beavers store six miles east out US 64 at River Hill Road. The stores were in opposite directions. We were not in this house for very long before mom fell down the stairs and broke her hip. She went to the doctor and he told her that it would heal in its own time and for her to go home and just do what she felt like doing. She used a wooden chair to put her leg on and slide around the house. As soon as spring came she was outside working in the garden. We were not much help for her; you know how lazy young boys can be. It seemed that my brothers would walk five miles to help someone else, but would not turn a hand at home. We lived at this farm for couple years until the Propst Farm became vacant and we moved back there. The Propst house had a living room, fire room, and two bedrooms. The kitchen and dining area was at back of the house. The outside was sided with weatherboard that was faded and peeling since had not been painted since construction. The inside had wood boards for the walls and flooring. Out from the kitchen was an eighty foot well that provided cold water year round. I lived here until I joined the Navy. About this time J.D, Albert, and Paul moved to Kannapolis where they could make $12.00 a week working in Cannon Mills. The photo below is a 1930's aerial view of the huge facility of Cannon Mills Plant No.1 where many of my brothers and sisters work at one time or another.

Since everyone left home, the farming was left up to Mother, Mark, and me. I was nine or ten years old and Mark was twelve years old. At that time we really found out what it meant to depend on God for help. We did not get to go to church much, only at revival time, but mother read the Bible to us and we had prayer every night to thank God for seeing us through that day and to watch over us through the night. What few times we were able to go to church, we went to New Hope Baptist Church which was on Old Mocksville Road near White Oak Road about four miles from home. We would walk but sometimes we would catch a ride from someone. Back then, if you were walking and a car came by, they would pick you up and give you a ride. Most of the time on Sunday, it would take too much time to do all that we had to do on the farm and then walk the four miles. I remember that all the people that had cars were already at church before we would arrive. Since we were unable to attend church often, I learned that I could worship God anywhere but we were always taught that you should attend Church when you could. I sure wished that I knew what pain my Mother had when she fell down the stairs at the Holten Farm. She had to have been in a lot of pain to carry on the way she did but she never complained about. I think that is the reason that I did not know. Looking back on my life now I see there are many things that I should have done differently. That is why I try never to complain about how things are; I think we should take what comes our way and make the best of it.

Mark and I were left on the little farm to do most of the work. We planted about five acres in cotton and about the same in corn. We had two mules, their names were Pete and Bill and they knew their names. Pete was bigger and was strong enough to pull a house down but he just laid back and let Bill do his part. One day when I was down in a field plowing some of the crop with old Pete, the white mule, a thunderstorm came up quickly. I unhitched him from the plow, threw the trace chains over Pete's back, and jumped up on to ride home. Pete trotted at a faster pace than he normally did. Just about that time a great big bolt of lighting hit about where we were and it was accompanied by a huge clap of thunder. Immediately that old mule started to run for his life! He kept running until he got to the barn and went straight into his stable. The door was just big enough for the mule so I was slammed up against the outer face of the door. For the first few seconds after the impact, I actually thought that I had been killed. This event taught me to never ride a mule in a thunderstorm. At the age of thirteen, on a farm there are many lessons you just have to learn the hard way. I imagine that is the reason I have tried to tell my own children what to do; I just did not want to have to learn the way I did. If you learn the hard way it will stick with you the rest of your life. Listen as I tell this story.

We sold Pete which took us down to a one horse farm. Back then the way you sized a farm was by how many horses it took to farm it. Mom still did the garden, all of the house work, and the canning of fruits and vegetables. We would pick wild strawberries, blackberries, and dewberries so Mom could make some of the jellies and jams; they sure went good with the good homemade biscuits that she made every morning.

When we downsized we thought that we would have to move off this farm but Mrs. J.W. Propst liked us as a tenant so she let us stay. We gave her one third of the cotton that we harvested. We would make about three bales and we would give her the proceeds from the first one when we sold it. We were able to keep the money from the other two. After selling them, we would get to go to town and buy our winter clothes. We would get to go to town a couple times a year, usually once in the spring and once in the fall. We would get a new pair of Wolverene work shoes (they were also our Sunday shoes), four pairs of socks, two shirts, two pair of overalls, two pairs of long john underwear and if we had any money left we would get an aviators cap and a pair of gloves. These items had to last us until the next fall so we took good care of those things. We would get our shoes at least two sizes too big so they would last till the next fall. We would always wear the new ones to school. When we would get off the school bus to walk home which was about a mile and one half we would take them off and walk bare footed to save the shoes. When we got home we would put on our old ones. They usually had holes in the bottom, if we could find cardboard we would put that in our shoes and it would last a few days. Good cardboard was hard to get in those days. We would go most of the summer without shoes and our feet got so tuff that not much of anything would hurt them. All of the roads were dirt except US-64 which was paved.

We would save our shoe boxes to put under the Christmas tree for Santa. When Christmas would come around we would get an orange, banana, apple, tangerine, some nuts, and a few pieces of stick candy. We would also receive a small gift of some sort, a toy, and some pencils and paper for school. Mom would buy a huge three pound stick of peppermint.

When I was in the fifth grade, a lunchroom was added to our school. Up until this time we had to bring our lunches in a paper bag which we called a poke. Lunches in school were five cents but I didn’t even have that. I would go before class to the lunch room and they would let me chop the wood for the stove and I would get a meal ticket. I did this for at least a year before I was able to come up with a nickel every day. I had to walk about one and a half miles to catch the school bus and then I rode it for about ten miles. Walking in the cold and riding a bus with no heater, when I finally arrived at school I was ready to do some work to warm up. In the winter it was cold and in the summer it was too hot. Every morning before we started our lessons our teacher Mrs. Evans read a chapter from the Bible; we had prayer, and said the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Growing Up - Ages 3-6 - Part Two

There are so many things that come to mind as I think back on yesteryear. The first house I can remember was about two and one half feet off the ground. It was held up on rock piers with no underpinning so we could crawl under it and play when it would rain. The chickens and rooster would go under the house. Sometimes the tail feathers of the old big roster would stick up through the cracks in the fire room. We would grab onto the feathers just to hear him holler. One night mom had to go to the outhouse which was in the back of the house and down a path; she did not have any light. When she sat down she felt that something was there inside! She reached her hand over to the corner and about the time she did, the old big red roster tried to fly out. You can imagine the shock she had being in the outhouse when it was pitch black. She never went back to that out house after dark with out a light again.

I never did but some of the guys in town would go out on Halloween night and slide the outhouse back a little so when someone would go in the dark they would almost fall in. The country boys would take a buggy apart and put it back together on the roof of some one's house; that was good clean fun. We did not get to trick-or-treating back then since we were way back in the country and it really did not get started until around 1950. I remember that it was all tricks on October 31. Listen to me tell this story.

Thanksgiving was the time we would all go hunting to kill a turkey if we could find one. If we were unsuccessful, we would roast a big 'ol hen and cook country ham along with all the vegetables that we had from the summer. When we had to depend completely on what we grew, it sure made us thankful to our Lord that He provided for us. We never missed a meal, sometimes it would look like we may but God always came through.

After Christmas, the little wagon one that is still vivid in my memory, we moved from the Propst Farm to the Oswalt Farm which was about twenty miles away. Spring came and we found out that the cold weather did not have an effect on the old pump. It was just worn out; you could pump on it all day and not get but a couple gallons of water out of it. There was a spring with lots of water about a quarter a mile down a hill and that is where we had to carry water for everything. It was my job to carry water for the household. I remember that we had wooden floors and they had to be scrubbed with a large brush and flushed down with water. All day long on floor scrubbing day I would have to carry two buckets to and from the spring to get water. Now I realized why the rain barrel was set where it was, remember when I jumped into what I thought was a barrel full of pea hulls? That too is still vivid in my memory! It was not long before we had rain barrels set under everything that had rain water runoff. I am sure that experience is the reason I cannot ever waste water.  Listen to me tell this story.

We only stayed at this farm one year because the ground was so poor that it would just grow weeds which made our crops were very slim. We about starved to death! If it was not for the rabbits and squirrels we would trap or shoot and for fish that we could catch out of the creek about a mile away, I guess we would have died of starvation. We did have an old cow but that year she was getting too old to give much milk. That winter we had corn bread and milk at supper time about every night. Mother bought a one hundred pound sack of pinto beans for three dollars and that got us through the winter along with the other things. We did kill a hog which gave us some meat and lard for cooking. The chickens were lazy that year; I guess we did not feed them very well so we were short on eggs. We ate pork, corn meal mush, and always had good homemade biscuits with butter and a lot of jellies, jams, and molasses.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Growing Up - Ages 3-6 - Part One

I will start by telling some of the things that happened in my life between ages three and six. I hung around the house most of the time but other times, especially as I got older, I found myself hanging around the barn doing chores. It was my job to feed the chickens every morning and to gather the egg every evening. It was a good job but sometimes I would collect so many eggs that I would have to put some in my pockets to carry them back to the house. A few times I forgot they were there or would miss emptying one of my pockets and would end up crushing them by accident. Now that made for a gooey mess because I might have some worms, a toad or frog, or some other critter I had found in the woods in the same pocket. During the day I would help mother in the house. She would let me try to cook and clean the house. When she worked out in the garden I would help her plant, work the soil, and harvest the vegetables. The job I disliked the most was picking the bugs off the potato plants. I would pick them off the plants and put them in a bucket. When I was finished, I would pour some kerosene on them and ignite the liquid with a match to burn them up. For a little boy that was a little mean to do to any creatures but I got use to it.

As time passed I got to go to the barn and feed the cows and carry the feed to the hogs. That was fun for a few days until I realized that it was my job to do it all the time. I would get up before daylight and go feed the animals. By the time I got back to the house, Mother would have breakfast which normally consisted of country ham, eggs, corn meal mush, and good ol’ hot biscuits. We always had fresh butter, homemade blackberry jelly, molasses, and jams of all sorts.

Time went very slowly for a little boy on the farm and it seemed that it was five years between one Christmas and the next. We never received much knowing that Santa just had a small sled and could not bring much. We always had the Christmas spirit and knew we were celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yes indeed, we all knew what Christmas was all about. Each December we would go out into the woods and cut down a pretty pine tree. We would bring it home and put it in the living room; back then we called it the fire room because we only had heat in one room. Our heating unit was an open fire place but it would not heat the entire house. I remember one night when I left the bucket full of water out in the hall over night, it froze over and we could not get the dipper out the next morning! I am sure I got into a lot of trouble over that because I still remember that I cried from the punishment. Listen to me tell this story.

There was one time I REALLY got cold. Since we were share cropping, we had to move from one farm to another for different reasons and we always moved in mid winter. We moved to the Oswalt Farm which was five miles west of Statesville, NC. We moved in wagons so we had to pack the dishes in something that would keep them from breaking during the rough ride. I remember that we would save the pea hulls and use them to protect the dishes. The house we were moving into had a big back porch and a rain barrel at the corner. As the dishes were unpacked, guess where the pea hulls ended up? In the rain barrel! I saw that big wooden barrel full of pea hulls and I just had to jump in. It only had about two inches of pea hulls floating on top and the rest of the barrel was filled with ice water due to wintry temperatures. I found myself up to my neck in three feet of ice water and just a couple of inches of pea hulls. My clothes were soaked and I nearly froze to death before I could get warm again! Listen as I tell this story.

That old house was two stories with the upper floor unfinished. I was told that it was haunted so I wanted to sleep in the fire room with mother. I was told that I was too old to sleep with her so I did the best I could sleeping with my brother Mark. He was two years older than me did not believe in ghost so that helped a little. At least I was able to sleep at nights.
That winter was the first time that I realized that we were having a hard time. We had an old pump that would freeze up so we could not get any water from it. We did not have much food but God took care of us. We discovered that the people that lived on the farm before us had to move away without plowing up the potato. They were still in the ground! We gathered them to eat throughout the winter along with what little other food we had.

In a creek about two miles behind our house on the Cook's Farm, all of my brothers with the help from boys from other farms around built a dam across that little creek. We made a pond that was about four feet deep and about fifteen feet across which was later called the Cook's Pond. The Cook's lived a couple miles behind us on the other side of the woods on Wooten Farm Road. I hate to say this but the whole bunch was so lazy that they did not do much farming. They were on what we called relief. The county would bring them a truck load of can goods. Sometime they would give us some and we would take the big tin cans and use them for drinking cups and also bowls for eating corn bread and milk, soup, and beans. I don't think we ever had a set of dishes that matched and made do with what we had. Mother would never let us eat any thing while we were at the Cook’s house because they were not very clean. In fact, I thought of them when I saw Ma and Pa Kettle on television which I thought was a story about the Cook's.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Early 1930's

It is time for me to write a little more about how life was back in the early 1930's. In 1931 I was two years old. I believe you know it is hard to remember things when you are that age, so I will just have to make my best guess at what I was doing at this time in my life.

Since I was the youngest of the eleven children in my family I followed Mom around the house. She always said that I tried doing everything that she was doing. I am sure she had to do some things that I could not do, but sure I must have tried. I had to wear a little night gown made out of flour sacks. This did not bother me because I did not know what other kids were wearing and at two, what child really cares. To be honest, I did not know any other kids other than my brothers and sisters.

One of my first memories took place when I was around three years old. In the summer we would get some ice delivered to our house. After the ice men would leave Mom would get an empty quart lard metal bucket, placed milk, sugar, and some other fixings in it, put the lid on, and lowered it down in an old broken stone crock pot. She would put ice around it, added some course salt, and then by spinning it back and forth, made ice cream. Boy was it good!

The same year, Christmas came around, it was the first one that I really remembered. That year I got a little red wagon, some stick candy, six nuts, one orange, one banana, and one apple. Back then we would make that much stuff last until around the middle of January. Unfortunately my little wagon did not last that long. I took it outside to a little hill in front of our house and got in it and rode it down the hill one time. It was a lot of fun! Before I could go back up the hill, one of my big brothers Paul grabbed it away from me, pulled it back up the hill, and sat down in it for his ride down the hill. When he did, the four wheels just collapsed and that was the end of the wagon! Like most kids my age I pitched a fit and cried. That event on December 25, 1931 was the end of the first Christmas that I remembered. Listen as I tell this story.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Life in the Early 1900's

I will start by telling you about how it was in the early 1900. My mom and dad lived in Charlotte and worked in the cotton mills. Mom went to work when she was twelve years old. My Dad was in the army and fought in the Spanish-American War. When he was discharged from the army he became a supervisor in the same mill as my mother which is the way they met.

My dad was a big fisherman and never missed a time to go fishing. It was Paw love for fishing that took him and our family to Long Island, NC. It was on the banks of the Catawba River where he stayed most of the time when he was not working. I guess I would have had more brothers and sisters if he had not died when I was fifteen month's old. I do not remember ever having a dad. After his death, Mom had a hard time since there was no income to feed our large family of ten children.

I was born or I maybe I was just found in an old holler stump or something like that. You did not hear much about storks bringing babies back then. Since you would not believe the stump story for one moment, I will just have to tell it like it really was the day I was born.

It was early one spring day, May 21st 1928, to be exact. Mom woke up and told Paw that he was going to have another mouth to feed before the day was over and sure enough that is the way it happened and my life got started. Paw sent one of his older sons over the ridge to a neighbor's house to call the doctor. Doc came out to the country and got there just in time to see me and make sure I was in good working order. He got a chicken and a country ham for his trouble.

I was the last of nine boys and two girls to be born into this family. After I grew up a little, it was clear to me that Paw was not looking for another mouth to feed but another field hand to help feed him and the rest of the family.

Mom could always take care of herself! She did all the cooking and washed the clothes in three tin tubs after she boiled them in an old black wash pot over a fire in the yard. She did all the cleaning of the house as well as all of the gardening.

Mom rented the Propst Farm, a small one horse farm nine miles east of Statesville, NC. She paid the rent for it on the share cropper’s deal which meant that we had to give the first one third of what the farm was expected to yield to the landlord and we were able to keep the rest. My two older sister and some of the older brothers left the farm to work at public businesses as far back as I can remember. Two of my brothers joined the marines, others went to work in the cotton mill, and some stayed home to attend school. One sister and two brothers finished high school. Four joined the navy at the beginning of World War II, so I just had to join the navy which ended up being at the end of the big war.

I was the littlest one but you can bet your bottom dollar that I was not spoiled! All of the older ones had "been there and done that" and they knew just how to work little ol' me so I got it from everyone. Mom did try to protect me but it was one against ten. Of course, when she meant business, it only took one of her for my protection!

I will be going into more detail about my life through this blog. I plan to just start telling my story from the beginning and see where it goes. This will be a joint project with my son, Glenn.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I am Glenn A. Gurley, an eighty+ year old man that has had a blessed life. I often say I am a young man in an old man's body. I have experienced much in my life and would like to record it through this blog. Feel free to comment on what you read and ask me questions if you would like to know more or if something is unclear. I will do my best to reflect on my life and recall memories throughout my personal history. I found out about blogging when Betsy Gurley Mauney, my son's oldest daughter started a family blog before her son Isaac was born. Around that time, my son Mike came over to my house one day later in November 2008 and said, "Dad you need a blog!" He had just created one, Mike Goes A Bloggin' and thought it would be good for me to have one. I said to him, "What in the world is a blog?" He sat down at my computer and showed what a blog was and explained that Betsy had a blog and he had just created one. He shared it was quite easy for anyone to have with no cost. I told him that at this point in my 80 year old life, a blog was one thing that I did not need; he insisted that we create one then and there so it would be on my computer if I ever wanted to write anything to share with the folks that had access to it on the Internet.

A few days later Glenn Jr. came by and I told him that Mike had put a blog on my computer for me and asked him, "What can I ever do with a blog?" Glenn came up with the idea that I might write something about when I was young growing up in the country so he and the rest of the family would know a little about my life back when I was young. For the past several years, Glenn had tried to get the family to share stories about our family history so he jumped on this opportunity. I found out that he had his own blog and even taught educators how to use them. That day I started to write about some of the things that I enjoyed doing so that is how the story of my life unfolded. So it all started with Glenn's help. Glenn and I will work on this project together as a father - son project and set a goal to post a new entry about my life each week. I will continue this until I finish telling my story. I will also make audio recordings of some of the stories and post them in inside the blog entries. The picture is of my son Glenn, my son and blog assistant, and me.