Saturday, May 28, 2005

Kids and More Kids


When my second brother came along, he was completely different in looks from my first. He had lighter hair and looked a lot like my pappa. My pappa had blue eyes; my mamma had brown eyes. With every child that came, my mamma would say, "This one will be blue eyed." At first Lee looked like he would be blue eyed, but like all before and after him, his eyes changed to brown.

He was my pet. I loved him so. And he was spoiled. Once he was sick with pneumonia, and I was spending the night with my cousin, Laura. He cried for me until my folks sent for me to come home. I was so mad because I had to go home that I wanted to spank him.

But he was so sick when I saw him that I sat on the rocking chair and rocked him all night. This may have helped him. Moving him a lot kept the pneumonia from settling, or so the doctor said. Lee snuggled up to me and quit crying. That was a long night for me but well worth it.

I looked out for him a lot and spanked him also, when needed. Like each brother and sister, there was a very special love between us then, as there is now.

Lee was always very independent. From the time he was a small boy, he worked very hard. He would always say, "If you can't make a dollar a day, make fifty cents or a dime, but earn something each day." With this kind of thinking, he always seemed to have his own money to spend or loan for interest. He never shunned hard work and still does not.

I had one more sister after that, Maxine, the baby. She had sort of a rough deal. After her was the baby boy, Gordon, who died at six months. Then my sister Sadie died in the same year. As I said before, we took in Sadie's three small children. So, Maxine had to share everything with them. We all wanted to do this, but still I am sure it sometimes put a hardship on all of them.

We are all very proud of the fact that we did share our home with Wilma, Fay, and Virgil.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Feather Beds & Bedbugs

An important item to everyone back then was their feather bed. Everyone who was anybody had feather beds on every bed.

These were placed on top of corn shuck "underbeds." The shucks were well dried, then stripped from the end knot with a dinner fork until very fine. Then the knot was removed. This procedure was repeated until you had what we called a "shuck tick full," meaning a bed-size bag left open in the middle of the top side for stirring up the shucks everyday as you made the bed.

At bed making time the feather tick was turned back halfway and shucks and feathers were fluffed up to make a good looking bed. If anyone sat on it, the work was undone because it left a huge dent, very hard to fix until you made the bed again.

Since all housing was crude, we and all people had a problem with insects, anything that crawled or flew. But worst of all were bedbugs. There were no insecticides like there are now, so about once a week all feather beds, bed springs, shuck beds, and all went outside to get cleaned.

The springs were burned off with kerosene torches, then washed down with hot lye water. But the bugs were in the cracks of walls and floors, so they came back as soon as anyone went to bed. When DDT came out, all bedbugs got it! That was a victory for everyone.

We received news one day that anyone who wanted to make a cotton mattress should come to a certain place and spend a day mattress making. I remember that I went with someone. I thought, "How strange, a mattress for a bed, full of cotton, no way to fluff it up." No way did I want that on my bed. Without feathers I would probably freeze. No way to sink up in it to keep warm.

Lots of folks felt the same way. "No new fad is taking over my beds," they would say, even though the mattress was free. It was many years before we had a store-bought mattress in our house. When we did, they were used with feather beds on top of them.

So many things we think of as necessary now never came to our house. For instance, paper towels, waxed paper, foil, toilet tissue, washing powder, bleach, margarine, salad dressing, packaged salt, mayonnaise, packaged meats, frozen foods, and ground coffee, to give you an idea. I'm sure there is an even longer list.

There were no TV dinners - no TV! Our grocery store had no refrigeration, so you can see the limitations. And yet, we survived, even drinking our milk raw. We had no monthly bills except for a little food and kerosene.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ice Cream Social

When we were not occupied with things at home, we had community social events. If we needed to raise money for church or school, we had what we called an ice-cream supper.

Each family donated milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and hand-turned freezers. Some of the men and my pappa, because he always had a car or truck, would drive to town 15 miles away to the ice house and buy several hundred pounds of ice. We advertised so a large crown always showed up.

We would freeze about 5 gallons of ice cream at a time. The ladies dipped cones and sold as long as anyone could hold another bite. Five or ten cents a cone raised the necessary funds and gave us a party time also.

We made a sold lemonade by the tub full, and sometimes the ladies donated cakes to go along with the ice cream and lemonade. This was a lot of sweet things, but it never seemed to hurt anyone.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Home Medical Remedies

My mamma must have been a good nurse with her home remedies. Our family never had a hospital bill until my older sister, Evie, had her appendix out. Then it only cost $100 for the hospital stay and all.

My folks believed Vicks salve, Rosebud salve, castor oil, turpentine kerosene, and a lot of love were a cure for everything. Turpentine was always used for stomach worms, three drops on a teaspoon of sugar.

Vicks salve was for colds, castor oil a laxative, and kerosene was good for cuts and bruises. For sprained ankles, you soaked a brown paper bag in vinegar and wrapped tightly for a day or so. If you had croup really bad, molasses mixed with baking soda was eaten slowly.

For congested lungs they made what we called an onion poultice. Onions were cooked and put in a small cloth flour sack and laid on your chest. The fumes and heat did the job.

If you had a really sore throat, a yarn sock was soaked in kerosene and the excess oil squeezed out. The neck was rubbed with Vaseline to keep the skin from blistering, and the sock was pinned around the neck overnight.

Quinine was always taken once a year, just in case of anything unknown. A ball of asafetida might be worn on a string around your neck to ward off contagious things, such as, mumps, measles, or whooping cough.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Country Doctor

Often we gave Doc Martin a ham or canned fruit or eggs. He would just say, "Oh, give me whatever you can spare. I have to eat too." An office call was always 50 cents, including the medicine, which was kept at the office or in his bag. No drug store visits were necessary. Once in a while if Doc had to lance a boil or stitch up some injury, he might ask for about two dollars.

Doc was a dear, dear person. When I had typhoid fever, Doc wanted me to take castor oil and I cried. He bribed me by giving me a dime for each tablespoon full. He was like part of our family. He had a great deal of compassion. He knew I was really sick, and he cared.

When Evie had appendicitis later, he and his wife took her in his little car, drove 30 miles to the hospital for surgery, and stayed until it was over and she was recovering. His wife let Evie lay on her lap all the way to the hospital.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Surgery at Home


Everyone then had their babies at home. As I said, my mamma had eleven children, all at home. Once, however, she needed an appendectomy. She did not want to leave the kids, so the doctors, nurse, and neighbor ladies prepared for a day at our house for surgery.

My pappa made an operating table, the date was set, and I watched my mamma walk to the table in her white gown and get on the table. Then we left the house for a while. That was such a dreadful time for me. I hardly knew what surgery meant, but I knew it was bad because my big Sissy went down to the springhouse. She thought she should not cry, so she picked her toenail off to the bleeding point so she could cry and use that for an excuse.

By noon, the surgery was finished and the neighbor ladies had prepared a huge feast. The doctors and everyone ate because they had to spend the day to be sure all went well. My mamma came through fine, even though she was expecting a baby at the time.

My little brother was small. I remember when my mamma could talk, she said, "Bring me my baby." and they took my little black-headed brother in to her. The surgeon and nurse came 30 miles for the operation, and our Doc Martin lived 4 miles away. Doc Atkins, whom we called the pneumonia doctor, was also there. He lived about 15 miles.

Can you imagine doctors who would go that far and spend a whole day for anyone any more? The cost was so small I never even heard it discussed.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Good Times & Bad

Mrs. Ollie was one of my best buddies, even though she was an old lady and I was just a child. She used to sit on her porch swing and teach me to patch overalls and socks.

She had six sons and one daughter. When she lost her daughter who had four children, she and her husband, who we all called Mr. Sid, went to Illinois, took care of the details, and brought the four children home to raise. Mrs. Ollie and Mr. Sid were old people with their family mostly grown up, so this was a hard task. But they sacrificed and with much love, raised them.

These kids and I grew very fond of each other. We shared a lot of time together. I still see the eldest daughter occasionally. It always brings back sweet memories and some sad time people shared then. We laughed together and cried together if anyone had sorrows.

We respected the family when there was a death to the point that we did not dare work or even hand out a wash on the line when anyone in the neighborhood died. We always sat up nights with the corpse.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Swimming & Berry Pickin'

Maggie Lee was devilish, but I loved her dearly. I would follow her in anything she could think up. Once on a Sunday morning, we sneaked two gallon buckets with lids and went to a deep creek. Neither of us could swim. We tied the buckets to our shoulders and went swimming. As usual we were caught - by her mom and sister this time. We were in the doghouse for a long time over that one.

One day she told me, "My dad gave me a good thrashing with a peach tree limb." To console her, I said, "That shouldn't have been too bad. Its not near as sharp as a buckberry or hickory switch." She looked at me very sadly and said, "With the peaches on it?"

One of the things I remember especially is the time when wild blackberries ripened. There was an old man who lived along who had acres of pasture land filled with berry vines. He gave permission to anyone who want to pick them.

We went as a whole neighborhood and picked. As long as anyone had an empty bucket, we helped each other. Mrs. Ollie, my Sissy's mother-in-law, who was a precious lady and friend to everyone far and near, always insisted that everyone have buckets well filled.