By Frances Garner
I was born in Butler County in the Pigeon Creek community at home, delivered by a country doctor, the Dr. R.L. Jernigan who made house calls in the year 1937.
I cannot remember the depression years but heard many accounts of the hard times my parents experienced during those years.
We lived on a farm in a very rural area and I was the sixth child. My siblings consisted of four older brothers and a sister.
Although money was scarce during my growing up years, food was plentiful due to our family having a large garden and raising our own meat.
My dad said people would come from town to try to get vegetables and would take almost anything out of the garden.
Some would want to buy them and others my dad would just share as he loved doing that anyway.
People would even be glad to get the collards and turnip leaves although they had become old and were turning yellow.
We had pigs, chickens, and cows so our meat and milk products were plentiful.
It was just hard to get money for staples.
Every several weeks this would require a wagon trip into Greenville for large quantities of sugar, flour, and coffee beans which would be ground for coffee, animals supplied the lard, corn provided the corn meal and the grits, and the sugar cane would supply the good cane syrup.
On any given day the basic meal for breakfast would be biscuits (a large quantity for the eight of us), grits, home grown eggs, bacon or sausage and always a pitcher of syrup on the table.
Everyone had breakfast together as well as the other meals.
My dad thought everyone had to get up by daylight and start the farm work. Dinner (now called lunch in the middle of the day) would be thick baked cornbread and a bounty of vegetables, whatever was in season or either canned.
This would be the main meal since my Daddy and brothers would be very hungry working in the fields.
The supper meal would consist of leftovers from dinner which would be left on the dining table and covered with a white cloth.
In the winter time this could be warmed on the fireplace.
If anything was left from the night meal, it was given to the hunting dogs as there was no refrigeration.
Fried chicken was usually reserved for Sunday dinner and the chickens were killed fresh right off the chicken yard, cleaned, and into the fry pan.
They were killed by wringing their neck, dunking them in boiling water to loosen the feathers, picked, and cleaned.
If company was coming you got up early to dress the chickens.
All social activity revolved around the church and the school. Everyone in the community would take part in one or both, especially during revival time in the summer.
Cars were scarce so many families attended church on a wagon or buggy.
PTA meetings were well attended as well as any school play or other function.
A community picnic on the fourth of July was an annual event.
It would be on the creek banks of Pigeon Creek.
The men would cook a large wash pot of Brunswick stew and season it so hot the children would hardly eat it.
If we were lucky, we would have fried chicken, pineapple sandwiches, cake, and some iced tea if ice was available (the ice man only came once a week).
You could go into town to the ice house and get a big chunk the day before the fourth and keep it in a washtub covered with a quilt to keep it from melting so fast.
This would be picked off, put into the glasses, and the tea would be delicious (never any bottled drinks, and canned drinks were nonexistent in those days).
The afternoon would be spent swimming or wading in the creek.
The homemade swim suits the girls wore were something to look at and the boys would wear cut off or worn out pants.
A typical day in the life of a teenager on the farm consisted of chores mostly. There was wood to be brought into the house for the cook stove (a wood box was located near the stove both winter and summer), wood for the fireplace in the winter, corn to be shelled to feed the chickens, eggs to be gathered, yards to be swept, and house and garden work.
The boys were usually responsible for the outside chores like feeding the animals, hoeing, picking the cotton, pulling the corn, cutting wood, and plowing the fields.
The only real rest day was Sunday.
No work was expected on Sunday except the preparation of the meals and this was done before church.
On special occasions, if we had plenty of ice in the summertime, the family would enjoy a freezer of homemade ice cream and take turns turning the crank on the freezer.
Only the men or bigger boys could turn it when the ice cream began to get real hard.
In the early 40’s our family received a radio as a present and this brought a lot of the outside world into us.
A favorite on Saturday nights would be listening to the ‘Grand ‘Ole Opry’ and then during World War II it was a real comfort to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt speak to the American people. In those days the president was really admired and respected.
(to be continued)
Frances Garner, who lives in the Friendship community of Butler County, recently contacted me a short while back and said she had a collection of memories she had preserved for her children and wished to know if would like to publish some of the writings.
After reading through her works, there was not a hesitance on my part for including it as a series of articles in The Standard.
Inspiration comes in different forms and between Annie Crenshaw and now Frances Garner, The Greenville Standard is going to have a regular feature called ‘Ole Stuff and Such.
We begin with France’s recounts of growing up in the 40’ and 50’s and I hope France’s writings will inspire other Butler Countians to write their own recollections and memories of growing up from days long past, which we will gladly share.