Sunday, January 18, 2009

When I Was a Kid . . .


Two Orlando residents, Nina (Smarr) Myers and P. N. "Newt" Blake, aka Uncle Zeke, remember how it was when they were young. Nina remembers Orlando in the late 1930s and the 1940s. Then Newt Blake/Uncle Zeke, who was in her foster parents' generation, looks back still farther, to the last decades of the 1800s.

by Nina (Smarr) Myers, 2009

My formative years were Clover Fork made, in the Holbert home on upper Clover Fork. My foster parents were Abia and Margaret Etta (Cunningham) Holbert, both of whom were born in the decade following the Civil War, My foster parents were in their sixties when I first came to their home in 1935, and in most respects, they were brought up with few farm or household conveniences which began appearing later in rural West Virginia after 1900. I often reminisced with my foster parents about the “olden days.” I experienced some of the “olden” days myself since I am now in my mid-80’s. The other day, I was speaking with a cousin in Webster County about the “olden days.” During the conversation, we enjoyed harkening back to the days of yesteryear and I thought I might share some of those memories with the Orlando web page.
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Left: Nina Smarr
Right: Nina's foster parents Abia and Margaret Etta (Cunningham) Holbert


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~ People made their own baskets and furniture.
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~ Shoe soles were made of leather. When a hole was worn in the sole, a temporary patch would be made of cardboard until the shoes could be re-soled.

~ When shirts were worn out, the buttons were also removed so they could be re-used.

~ When men or women wanted to appear “stylish,” shirt sleeves would be turned up at the cuff. A person would be really avant-garde if he or she rolled the sleeves up to the elbow.

Right, above: an egg basket woven by Burt Blake, son of
Right, below: A Prince Albert tobacco can like the ones that women cut and bent into circles to use as hair rollers.

~ All shirts were long-sleeved. Summer shirts would be of lighter weight and winter shirts were usually woolen. There were no short-sleeved shirts.

~ Clothes were changed about once a week and coincided with the weekly baths, which often consisted of a “sponge” bath.

~ Hair curlers were made of strips cut from Prince Albert cans which were rolled and covered with cloth.

~ Hair was curled with heated curling irons and crimpers.

~ Much of the clothing worn was made from feed sacks.

~ There was always cuffs on trousers.

~ All underwear went to the ankles. There was no short underwear. For toilet convenience, “union suits” came about.

~ Men wore suspenders, not belts, which were also called galluses or braces.

~ Women wore garters to hold up their stockings and men wore them to hold up their socks.

~ There were no blue jeans, but only overalls.

~ Either the mother or father was the family barber.

~ There was usually a “lay” dentist in the neighborhood who could pull a tooth when needed.

~ Some meals consisted only of cornbread, mush or corncakes and milk.

~ When the cow went “dry” there was no milk until after the calf was born.

~ Meat was rarely on the dinner table, unless it was pork, rabbit, squirrel, or groundhog.

~ Apples and beans were dried and used during the winter time.

~ Families did not use sugar but used molasses or honey instead.

Above, right: dried apples and strings of dried green beans
Below, right: a feather bed in a ticking made of fabric designed for that purpose.

~ Flies would be chased out of the house through open doors with towels so a meal could be eaten without flies bothering the table.

~ Sears Roebuck catalogs were used as toilet paper in the outhouses.
~ Ice would form on the water buckets inside the house overnight during the winter.

~ Straw ticks and feather beds were used on the beds. Early mattresses were made by penitentiary workers.

~ Radios had batteries. Only a few programs, such as the “Lone Ranger” and the news would be listened to in order to preserve the life of the battery.
Click on the picture to the right to pull up a collection of Lone Ranger radio recordings.

~ Pencils were sharpened by pocket knives which preserved the life of the pencil.


* * * * *

By P. N. Blake, writing in his newspaper column as Uncle Zeke, ca. 1930s:

Do You Remember?
~ When the evening meal was composed of mush and milk?

~ When us men folk wore our shirts open up the back?

~ The days of hoop-skirts, sun bonnets, bustles, bangs and hair rats?

~ When a young man felt bigger than Jack Dempsey when he had on a paper collar, a pair of green topped fine boots, a brass watch, and a Japanese silk protruding from the hip pocket of his new homespun pants?
~ When saucers were called sassers?
~ When cucumbers were called cowcumbers?

~ When a garden was called a gyarden?

~ When watermelons were called watermilyuns?

~ When panthers were called painters?

~ When people scoured the woods in search of knots to make knot mauls?

~ When we used boot jacks to pull our boots off?

~ When cartridges were called catridges?

~ When we used to tan groundhog hides for shoestrings?

~ When Dad Heater and Jim Posey wore deer skins moccasins?

~ When people would go ten miles to a revival meeting?

~ When preachers wore stove pipe hats?

~ When just a few folks could afford a clock and cooking stove?

~ When our grandmothers and grandfathers were full of the old time religion?

~ When people wore homeknit wool socks winter and summer?

~ When Tom Conley went to school on Three Lick Run?

~ When grown ups went to church barefooted?

~ When people roasted field squashes in hot embers?

~ When small children were afraid to go to bed after hearing some ghost stories?

~ When people walked five miles to have a law suit?

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