Saturday, January 5, 2008

Growing Up - Ages 13-14 – Part One

At Christmas when I was 13, Ola gave a bicycle to Mark and me. It was a topnotch Schwinn with big tires, battery powered head light, horn, and a luggage carrier on the back. It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. We thought we had died and gone to heaven with that bike! The two of us kept it on the go forever; when one was not riding, the two of us were one it together. As you would guess, it did not take too long to put some wear on the bike but we did keep it running for a very long time. It was still around years later when I went into the Navy in early 1945.

Mark, pictured here in his sixth grade school photo, enlisted in the Navy when he graduated from school in 1943 which left me to do all of the farming by myself. Mother was getting on in years and her health was not the best; she still did much of the housework, most of the gardening, and some of the cooking. I learned to cook so I could help her in the house and garden. We were still washing clothes just as we did in the past, three tin tubs, a scrub board, and the big old black wash pot with a fire around it in the backyard. We were still using the lye soap that we made. We would buy a big cake of Octagon soap when we could. Once we had a washing machine salesman come to our house with a washer that was powered by a gasoline motor, we still did not have any electricity in the neighborhood, all of our light at night came from kerosene lamps. He left the washer with us for a week to try out. We figured that we could not afford gas at 15 cents a gallon to run it and we did not have any money to buy it, so we let him take it away when he came back. Mother and I thought it was easier to wash clothes by hand instead of using this new fangled machine. I could make a fire and use the scrub board; I just could not figure out how to get the gas powered washing machine started and keep it running. Listen as I tell this story.

In the years between the older boys leaving home and the time that I enlisted, there was a man shortage. The services were paying about twenty dollars a month, food, lodging, and clothes, plus if you got sick, they would take care of that. That was one of the reasons that most of the young men that were not drafted into the Army enlisted in the Navy. I was able to get some jobs helping other farmers with their crops and doing odd jobs around their farm. This paid between one half to a dollar a day. I was also able to get a job at a saw mill. That was not a twelve year old boy’s job; it was a man’s job! I would off bare the lumber and slabs, when I was not doing that I would snake logs from inside of the woods to the mill to be cut into lumber. This job paid one-fifty to two dollars a day for ten hours or more of work, daylight until dark. During harvest time, I picked cotton for farmers around the area for one cent per pound. The most I could pick in a day was a little over one hundred pounds. My brother J.D. could pick over three hundred pounds a day! I never understood how he could do that.

Since I was the only boy left to farm, I only planted enough cotton to pay the rent and a little bit for us. I figured that I could make more money helping other farmers; I did plant corn for corn meal and for feed for old Bill and the cow. We had a big garden that supplied food for the whole year. We usually had a hog to kill for meat and a good supply of canned vegetables from the garden. I hunted for rabbits and squirrels and caught fish in the creek to give us fresh meat. One year when Fred was working in Charlotte, he made about fifty rabbit traps that gave us plenty of rabbits. I was able to sell some of the big jack rabbits for fifty cents. During World War II everything was rationed which did not effect us very much since we grew most of our food; we only had to buy sugar, flour, coffee, tea, and kerosene.
In the spring, just after we gathered the wheat crop, we would remove all the straw ticks off the beds and wash them; we would fill them back up with new wheat straw. They would be great big again because after sleeping on them for a year they would mashed down very thin. Sometimes we could buy some clean straw for a dollar and make the change in late summer.

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