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.


Mike said...

This here best reading I've ever read. I always check this out everyday, to find out bout my DAD! You will have to print this and make it a book.

thorson said...

I have enjoyed reading about your experiences as a young child growing up in Iredell.