Tuesday, November 26, 2013


November 24, 2013

Youthful Memories of
Feb 1883 - Feb 1963

By Ron McKeever  

 On this cold morning, I flipped the light switch for instant light, walked into the hallway to increase the thermostat for instant heat, and headed to the bathroom for instant hot water.  After washing my face, I headed to the kitchen where coffee was instantly brewing and breakfast was being prepared.  Granny Kilgore never enjoyed any of the “instant things” in the first 60 years of her life.  

Grandpa would rise first and build a wood-burning fire in the open fireplace.  He would then light his lantern and make his way to the barn to feed the livestock in preparation for the day's activities.  Granny would build the fire in the wood-burning cookstove to heat water, make the coffee, and prepare the breakfast.  Electricity did not come to the farm until the early 1950’s.  Appliances would come later.  

Since there was no refrigeration, care was taken with the fresh food. Fresh eggs were used soon after being gathered.  The meat preserved in the smokehouse was cut the night before a morning breakfast. Oftentimes, the pork was ground into sausages and canned.  It would be reheated at breakfast time.  Any excess milk was kept cool by lowering it into the well, or occasionally, it was placed in an icebox, if one was owned, after a block of ice was purchased from a peddler passing by.  Another option for keeping milk a couple of days was placing it in a tub full of sawdust.  Chickens were killed the day they were to be eaten.  If the preacher was coming to dinner, guess who got the choice part?  I have scars on my hands to this day from helping Granny and Mom clean chickens.  
When washday came around, several tubs of water would have to be drawn by hand from a drilled well. The wash pot had to be scrubbed and filled with water.  Then a fire was built under the pot.  The work clothes were boiled in the wash pot. Other clothing was hand-cleaned on a rub board.  The water in the clothing was wrung out by hand.  The clothes were  either hung on a line or draped over fences and bushes to dry.  

Soap? Now, that's another story.  Occasionally, washing powder would be available, but soap was homemade.  The ashes from the wood-burning fireplace would be collected and water would be allowed to drip through the ashes to produce a lye.  The lye was mixed with older lard that had passed the useful stage and this mixture would be hardened and cut into squares to be used as soap.  This soap not only removed the dirt, it could also remove skin if the mixture was not exactly right.  

Any clothing that needed starch got special treatment.  Starch was made by mixing flour and water.  It might have had another secret ingredient but it was not known to the kids.  

When ironing clothes, a heavy, solid cast-iron metal iron was heated on the fireplace.  To determine if the iron was hot enough, Granny wet her finger and stuck it to the iron.  Some clothes would iron better if they were damp.  A spray bottle consisting of a coke bottle with holes punched into the cap did the job.  

Almost nothing was thrown away.   Clothes were patched and patched again until they finally disintegrated.  Granny Kilgore would make work shirts and under clothing with fertilizer bags that had been washed and rewashed and rewashed to remove the Royster name and number.  Some of the cousins would joke about all our names being Royster and we were 8-8-8 or 4-10-7 or one of the other numbers that designated the strength of the fertilizer.  

Because of the lack of hot water, baths were a luxury, especially in the winter time.  Usually, a wash tub was placed in front of the fireplace, and water was heated on the stove or in the water closet in the cookstove. One bath per week was usually it, and that was on Saturday night.  

On Sunday, everyone went to church, getting there by walking or riding in a mule-drawn wagon. The closest church to Granny and Grandpa’s home was New Oak Grove Freewill Church, also known as Possum Trot.    I have forgotten  if they ever told me if both names applied.  

Granny was afraid of crossing bridges.  Often the mule pulling the wagon would hesitate to cross a one-lane bridge and that made Granny afraid that he would dump the wagon load into the creek.  She usually got off, waited until the wagon crossed, and then got back on.  In 195l, I went with her to spend a week with the Spains in Guntersville.  To those who know that area, the Arab causeway crosses the lake there for about two miles.  She  wanted me to ask the bus driver to let us walk across the causeway rather than ride the bus.  I explained that if he did, we would be left alone on the other side.  

After Grandpa passed on (December 25, 1949), Granny was never left alone at night.  When she got an Emerson television, she had all kinds of volunteers to stay.  Of course, she was in bed 15 minutes after dark, but we could watch through the snow on the round screen and enjoyed every minute of it.  As the years accumulated, she would spend time with her scattered family but always wanted to be at home at bedtime.  She passed away on February 2, 1963 while at Mom's (Lois) house.  Both Mom and Pop died in the same room where Granny left us.  Almost daily, I thank God for the grand heritage of some of the greatest people this old world will ever know. 

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