George and James Sink
George and his son,James, are interviewed by Holly Smith and Misty Balas in the Sink's home in Mechanicsburg on May 6, 1998.
Misty: Where and when were you born?
George: I was born in Botetourt County
George: 1910. September 7th, 1910.
Misty: Wow! How about you Mr. Sink?
James: I was born July 23, 1945.
Misty: Where at?
James: About a fourth of a mile down the road
Misty: Who were your mother and father?
George: My mom was a Bishop before she married. Mattie Bishop. And my father, I can't think of when they got married.
James: I don't know, that was a long time ago. She was 94 when she died.
George: It was in Roanoke County, they was from Roanoke, in that vicinity. And my father worked in a Boiler, where they made boilers. And all of us children were small then and we just played, and come time come to pick berries we would go up in the holler, you know to pick huckleberries and things, and we went up there one time and was picking, and there was ten of us children in the family, and the two oldest ones were older than I was, I was the third one, and we was coming out of the mountains, and we had our buckets full of berries and I was smaller and there was a log there about that big around, and they stepped over it and went on, and I stepped on it, on top, and when I did, it went soft and started to move, and I said, I told them, good day lights lets get out of here, there was a snake, and that thing was 40 feet long, and I don't know where in the world it came from, but it come from somewhere. And I was little I had a carriage and they would take me out to eat blackberries, because you know I liked blackberries, I always wanted more blackberries. We was picking berries, and they left me a little back, and I was up in there, and it rolled back down the hill and turned over, and they ran right quick and I was just laughing. I told them I wanted more berries, and we went again after that, and they was a picking blackberries for me and a big old hog got after me. A hog! And that cut the berry picking out.
Holly: Where were you raised?
George: I was raised in Botetourt County.
Misty: When did you move to Bland County?
George: Well I lived in Pulaski County one time, we moved around so much that the chickens just laid around with their legs crossed. Fixing' to go. We moved at one place, then unload. And stayed one night, it was an awful beautiful house, and moved in it, and they told us there was a cave under it, a big cave, and the house might just sink anytime, and we just stayed there and then moved on again. We had one in Pulaski County and then on down in Giles County, and here up in Bland. I came up in Bland, let me see, about 65 years ago.
Misty: So where were you raised at Mr. Sink?
James: I have lived right here in the vicinity all my life, the only time I have been out of Bland County was long enough to spend four years at Emory and Henry College. So I am living now on the part of the same farm where I was born. I have lived here all my life.
Misty: That is impressive.
Holly: What did you do for fun when you were small?
George: Well I had to do everything. I had to work in the garden, mow, and played ball. Played ball and pitch horseshoes, games like that.
Misty: What did you like to do for fun?
James: Well in the summer time I liked to get out in the yard and mow the grass and rake it up and pretend like I was building haystacks like dad was building out in the field with the real hay. I was having a lot of fun building me some haystacks in the yard. In the summer time one of my favorite things to do was to get out and play in the creek. I always enjoyed that and it use to be that you could take a real long limber stick and you could take a green apple and put on the end of it. I use to love to see how far I could throw them. And another little fun thing was to take two chicken feathers and put them in a corncob and throw the thing through the air and watch it, watch it fly through the air, so I sort of entertained myself. I really didn't get to play a lot I always stayed pretty busy, I was six years older than my sister and when she came along I spent a lot of time taking care of her as a boy, so I really didn't get to play as much as some kids did.
George: He liked to play with the little guineas didn't he?
James: He is talking about when I was a little, little bitty boy, he use to raise guineas, sort of like the chicken family, but a lot different, he had maybe 75 or 80 at one time, and I thought I was a loving them, and when I picked them up, and what I was a doin' was loving them too much, I was a killing them.
George: If he ever got to mow with the horses he liked to ride on the mower when they was a mowing, and he throw gravels and flip out of here. I remember one time he said, "Papa, we are going to ride to Bland now aren't we?" He liked to ride horses.
Holly: What were your chores around the house?
George: Just everything that was called on. I had to take part in it. I milked cows, slopped hogs and chickens, and everything like that.
Holly: What did you do Mr. Sink?
James: One of my earliest little chores I remember doing we didn't have water in the house, and we had to carry water from the spring, and dad fixed two little gallon buckets and fixed them so they wouldn't cut my hands, the bails of the buckets wouldn't cut my hands, and one of my earliest jobs was for me to take my two little buckets and go to the spring and I would take a lot trips and try to keep enough water carried up for us to cook with and wash dishes in and so forth, and then I too had to feed the chickens and gather the eggs, and things like this, and then later on, when mother and dad were working at the cannery I would have to milk in the afternoon, and do the chores if they were late coming in, but daddy usually did those in the morning, but sometimes in the afternoon I would have to help out.
Misty: What was your house like?
James: Which one? We got some of them good ones.
George: Back when I was growing up most of them were log houses.
Misty: Log houses?
George: They had shingles on them, and if you looked through the roof you could see the sun shining through, but the rain wouldn't come in. Those old shingle roofs. They made the shingles and put them on with that, and the logs use them, and chains and dobbins. And you could get up in the morning and make a track on the floor because of snow.
Misty: You would wake up in the morning with snow on you and stuff?
James: Was it you who woke up one morning with the snow on your bed blanket one morning?
George: Yeah, you would just brush it off. Back then you didn't pay any attention to that.
James: The snow would just blow through them. The old houses.
Misty: How about the house you told us about before, the Morgan house?
James: Uh-huh, that is where mother and dad went to house keeping, in 1943. Now before that there is another big white house down the road, and a weather boarded house, he lived in the house with the folks there, before he married.
George: I came here in when I was twenty three or twenty four before I was married. And there wasn't no power in it and it had a light plant and you could run that and that's the only juice that you had pump water and make lights in the house just like the lights now did. That was several years before we had power. They was ice boxes they would come through selling ice you know you'd just a hundred pound of ice just drop in that box and that's all you had for frigeration.
James: As a family we have lived in this house here since 1970.
George: I built that house down yonder you know we lived in. How many years did we live in that house?
James: Twenty-five years.
Holly: How was your house heated?
George: Back then? Just a wood stove. Fireplace and sometimes they had a coal stove later on.
James: The rooms where we sat were heated with wood heaters. I forgot to tell you while ago, that one of my jobs also was to try to keep the wood box filled up. We had to carry in small wood to burn in the cook stove and larger pieces of wood to burn in the wood stove where our living room was. So it took a lot a wood in those days to keep 'em going. Then later we heated our living room with a coal stove. Now our present home is heated with electric heat.
Holly: What did you cook your food on?
George: Just a wood stove like this over here in the building.
Misty: Where did you go to school and what was it like?
James: Do you remember what school was like?
George: Yeah you had to walk and there wasn't no days missed you went everyday. Back then we had lots of snow we'd go through the fields you know you had to walk four miles. The only that you could go was to walk or ride a horse there wasn't no other transportation at all. A lot of teacher would ride a horse, we had a shed and we'd put 'em in there, and we would walk, and we would go over top of rail fences and with snow over it you couldn't tell it was there. And there would be snow drifts as high as a head and we would have to go through it.
Misty: Where did you go to school at Mr. Sink?
James: I went to school at Mechanicsburg, it was a three room school, three classrooms and a lunchroom in it. The classrooms were heated with warm-morning coal stoves, in fact my job in the seventh grade was to carry in the coal for those stoves, sometime I would carry in eight or nine coal buckets full of coal, and that was really my first job I remember, I got paid ten cents a day for carrying the coal in for the school. The way it operated, the first three grades were in one classroom, and sometimes they would split the third grade, and have first, second, and part of the third grade in one classroom, and the rest of the third grade, fourth, and fifth grade in another classroom, and the sixth and seventh were in another classroom. There were usually anywhere from seventy to eighty students in grades one through seven, there was no kindergarten then. And the little school is about a mile and a half up the road from where I live now. Years ago it was a high school, but I can't remember those days, but I do remember the three classrooms, it had a library in it, a storage room, and a cafeteria, our food in the cafeteria was also cooked on a coal stove.
Misty: Who were your teachers?
George: Miss Sexton was my teacher.
James: Did you have her for all you classes?
James: My teachers were, I had Ms. Pearl Franklin for my first grade teacher. When I was in the first grade I had a problem with stuttering, I was about as bad as Mill Tillis, and I don't guess I would have ever gotten over it but my first grade teacher would say, "James, stop!" and when I started into those stuttering fits she would make me stop and start over and I always owe a lot of credit to my first grade teacher for getting me straightened out, I don't know how I would have ever been able to teach school if she hadn't gotten me over that. And then I had a Miss Groseclose for second grade, my third, fourth, and fifth grade teacher was Miss Louise Bird, and my sixth and seventh grade teacher was Mr. Harry Bird, and these folks are aunt and uncle to Mr. Vance Bird who teaches at Rocky Gap.
Misty: How did you get to school?
James: I rode the school bus, the bus I rode let the students off in
Mechanisburg and then took the high school students on to Bland, and we would, we would have to get ready for the bus fairly early because to get from Mechanisburg to Bland took some time, and then in the afternoon that would have to wait at school until the bus came down from Bland, but we did have bus transportation.
Holly: How did the teachers make the students behave?
George: With switches. They would keep a whole corner full just get an armful and set them down in the corner. They did that. That is how they corrected them.
James: Of course when I was going to school they had gone a little bit up from switches to paddles, and they didn't mind using the paddle in those days either. But generally the kids I went to school with elementary school were pretty good, I can remember one of the favorite things was they would take recess away from them if they didn't behave and it was a good incentive when everybody else was out playing and you were sitting in the classroom, so discipline was usually pretty good in elementary school when I went.
Holly: What did you study?
James: We uh, let me tell you about seventh grade first, I always remember, especially the sixth and seventh grade a lot better, Mr. Bird loved to teach math, and he would start out in the morning the first thing with math, the sixth grade would have math and then the seventh grade would have math, and then he went to English, he felt those were the two most important things, and I never will forget that science was just being added to the curriculum when I was in elementary school, and Mr. Bird couldn't decide what to do with it so he decided to use it as a reading book, and then we had Virginia History in the fourth grade, and Virginia History again in the seventh grade, I know I had to memorize my states and capitals and had to memorize the governors of Virginia from 1900 and had to memorize the presidents and in the seventh grade after we finished Virginia History we needed to something to study , decided we were going to study Weekly Readers, they was a little magazine sort of like a newspaper that come out every week. Mr. Bird couldn't decide what he wanted to call it so I got my little report card that still shows he called it News, and he put us a grade on that for News, we study our weekly readers for the week, and ever Friday we would have a test on it. But in those days the real things that they stressed was the math and English and reading, and health books and science books were just coming into the curriculum when I was in elementary school. As I say, we had a lot of world geography and Virginia History.
Holly: What did you study?
George: I didn't get to go to school much, I had to stay and do lots of farming and things, and keep things again' I had a slate board.
Misty: How long did you go to school? How many years?
George: I went to the fifth grade. Back then, when I was in school seventh grade was as high as they went in the school then, and they went to nine. Now you go to twelve. You just had seven months when I went to school.
Holly: How did teenagers court when you were young?
George: Well I didn't do too much courting when I was young and the latter part of years.
James: You went courting in buggies didn't you?
George: Yeah, we went in buggies, horse and buggies.
James: Dad has told me several times that something he use to do when he was young for entertainment. There was a family who lived about a mile from where he did and they loved to gather in the winter and play Rook and pop popcorn and eat apples, so they had a lot of fun doing that.
Misty: Did you ever ride sleds or build bonfires or go fishing?
Holly: Or have snowball fights?
George: Yeah I have done all of them, I liked to go sleigh riding. One time we lived up on top of a mountain there was six or seven of us and we had a big horse sled and we pulled it up on top of a mountain and got on that thing, all of us, and it came down there so fast that it came through a rail fence. Threw rails everywhere, that broke us from riding on that sled.
James: What I liked to do was I had a little red wagon and I use to like to pull it up to the top of a hill, there was a pretty steep little hill where we use to live, and ride that red wagon off of there. I know my mother told me one day
to quit that. If the tongue broke in that thing you would kill yourself.
Holly: Where were you married?
George: Mechanicsburg. I lived that house down there with a lady, nine years before I married, and she always kept a boy with her to help her with outside chores and a woman inside, of course she had a daughter, but she went to school, but she always had somebody with her. Her husband passed away, it didn't seem the girls wanted to stay too long. I don't know whether the work was too hard or what. She had two or three and they left, but Miss Alma told me one day, she said lets get in the car and drive up on Little Creek and see if we can't find a girl over there. We tried several houses and didn't have any luck, and we went on and tried another one, Mr. Brunk, we stopped at his house, and my wife was there in the house that we stopped in, and they told that she couldn't come, that she was needed at home, she had to work on the farm. He worked all of the time, saw milling for a living, and so I left then, and she told her mother, "I don't know who that fellow is or what he is, but he is going to be my man one of these days." And sure enough it was, and it was during the war, and gas and everything was rationed and just five gallon stamps was all you get, and that wouldn't give you much transportation, and we courted on like that for awhile. We finally got married in, let me see, it was 43 wasn't it. In the parsonage in Mechanicsburg. It was the 30th of November and it snowed four inches, and we pulled out and went to Roanoke then, to Patrick Henry Hotel.
James: That is where he spent his honeymoon.
James: The Patrick Henry Hotel in Roanoke.
Misty: What was her name? Your wifes name?
George: Beulah Brunk.
Misty: Mr. Sink, where were you married?
James: I was married in the Rocky Gap Methodist Church in, July 7th, 1990.
Misty: And who did you marry?
James: I married, one of my former students, Doris Stowers. When I went to Rocky Gap to teach in 1967 she was a sophomore, and she always tells people that is when she met me, and that is true, she had French with me that year, and I was her teacher for her 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. And she went away to college, finally in 1989 we decided to start dating each other. So that was a long time after graduation. Then we got married in 1990. But I married one of my former students.
Holly: When did you first get electricity?
James: Do you remember? There wasn't any down in here in '45. Miss Alan probably had it.
George: No, she didn't have it. We had the thing that made the lights and pumped the water and everything.
James: So it must have been somewhere around '45.
George: I guess it was about '45. They ran the line across the ridge first, they had power.
Misty: When did you first get the telephone?
George: Well back then you just had a phone that was run by battery. And when they called maybe they would call with a long. With one first then a long and a short. Or two shorts and a long. Numbers like that. And it didn't cost a thing to have the telephone, that was all we had. And the lines went plum through this holler into Pulaski, and that was all of the telephones that they had. When the batteries would get weak you would have to get a new one. It was two long batteries, just like that. About that long, 'bout that big around.
Misty: When did you first get TV?
Holly: What were some of the shows you watched?
James: We always like things like, I love Lucy, and I Married Joan. And all of those westerns, there use to be a western on about every night. Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Laramie.
George: Them old ones were good.
James: Gunsmoke. But really comedies was one of my favorites. My Little Margie. I mentioned Lucy and the western shows, always enjoyed those.
Misty: Do you remember any bad snowstorms or floods?
George: Yeah, we would have snow. Most of the time one would blow off and we would have another. We had lots of them. We would get out and play in the snow all day long.
James: One of the worst rainstorms I can remember, it come a flash flood, when I was a boy, the water got up over Kimberling Creek Bridge down here. It was one more sight. And the worst snowstorms that I can remember was in the '60's, and I think we had 60 some inches of snow that winter, and some high winds and it drifted so that after our garden come up in the spring we could still see a patch or two of snow in places from February, where it had blown and drifted and piled up so deep.
George: It drifted over the roads so traffic couldn't go through them.
James: Cloyd's Mountain was blocked for several days, I can remember that and the road up here in Mechanicsburg on 42 was blocked, you had to go through Mechanicsburg to get around, and we were janitors at the Mechanicsburg school and had to get up there to see about it, and I think, it seems like, we waded snow up to our waist to get down to the school to see about things.
Holly: How did your family celebrate Christmas?
George: Well we would all just get together and just put on a special day. We got out Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and put it up that night you know, my daddy, when Christmas night come, would always get his shot gun and get outside, make us think there was a real Santa Clause. He said that sometimes Santa Clause got mean, said he would have to get out and watch him, and back then you hung up a sock, and hang it up on the mantel or fireplace and everything you know. And old Santa Clause would leave your stuff in it, and your presents under the tree, and my oldest brother one night, said that he was peeking and that old Santa Clause left him sticks. Old Santa Clause had all kinds of nuts, he would eat a whole pile of nuts and leave them piled on the table, they said that it was where old Santa Clause ate his snack the other night. And we put up a tree, and we didn't have much to decorate it with. So we popped popcorn and string that you know, and do different things, just whatever you could get to put on it to sort of decorate them.
Holly: What about Halloween? Did you do anything for Halloween?
James: You didn't, but some of them did.
James: Tell them about pulling up the cabbage.
George: Yeah they would pull up the cabbage, they would do that.
James: And they would also turn out some of the outhouses. We didn't do that.
Misty: Did you celebrate Easter?
George: Yes, we would always have something special for the holidays.
Misty: Like an Easter Bunny?
James: You had all the eggs you could eat
George: Uh-huh that is right, and hide eggs you know.
Misty: How about Valentines day?
James: Well now Valentines Day when I was in elementary school we always took a valentine for each classmate, and there would be a box in the room, and we put those in when we come into the school that day. Sometimes, oh the last thirty minutes of the day, they would open up the valentine's box and they would distribute the valentines. We would put to and from, and we would try to be sure that every kid got a valentine, we would have a party. So most of the time our valentine celebration was based on what we did at school, we didn't do anything special at home.
Holly: Who was your favorite movie star?
James: We never did see many movies did we?
Misty: Or T.V. star?
James: We didn't get T.V. until '58, do you remember anybody you liked in particular?
James: We both always liked Lucille Ball, she could make you laugh. And then after that a lot of the country music shows on t.v., of course, this wouldn't be movie stars, but we always enjoyed watching those shows, with the country music on them. Porter Wagon and some of those, but we were the type of people who never went to see a lot of movies, I can remember my first movie that I saw. It was call, "The Song of the South." And the people whose place we lived on, dad was a tenant farmer on this farm, and they took me to Pulaski to the theater over there to see a movie, and the name of it was "The Song of the South." And I can remember a little boy who was in the movie who had a frog, and he was trying to hide the frog so they wouldn't see he had it, so he put it on his head, and put his cap on it, and all at once the frog jumped, and there went his hat and everything off. And I know that everyone in the theater laughed so hard, but that was about all I can remember, but that was my first movie I went to see.
Misty: How much did it cost?
James: Probably about 50 cents, but to tell you the truth I don't remember.
Holly: Do you remember World War I?
George: No, I don't remember much about it?
Holly: Do you remember if anyone in your family had to go fight or anything?
James: World War II they did.
George: Yeah, in World War II they did, two of my brothers had to in World War II.
James: I had two uncles, two of dads brothers in World War II, one of them was in the Pacific and he shared with us one time of a story about getting injured and there was a monkey that was around him that sort of routed him and kept him going, but he had a pretty serious injury in World War II, but there was two members of dad's family who had to go, two of his brothers who were in World War II.
George: I would have been in it, but Miss Alan kept me out on the farm, and there was no one to run it, she went to Bland and said I can't let him go, so he let me stay on the farm, that is what kept me out of it.
George: Well there wasn't too much rain that year. It was poor crops.
James: What he is referring to, is about the time of the Depression hit there was a terrible drought that hit through here, and he shared several times about a great big piece of corn that they only got a wagon load of corn out of it, so along with the Depression that things going on there, things were going bad on the farm. With the drought that hit and so forth, but I don't think people in those days paid too much attention to the economic conditions as they do now, because nearly everybody was poor, and nearly everybody raised what they needed anyway, and pretty much self-sufficent, except for sugar and things like that, that they had to have for canning, it was society then through here then that everybody worked hard and were more self-sufficient and the depression didn't really effect them in the rural areas as they did in the big cities.
Holly: When did you get your first radio?
George: I forget when they get their first one.
James: Was it a battery one or was it electric?
George: It had a battery.
Holly: Do you remember any of the shows you would listen to on the radio?
James: Yeah, the Grand Ole Opry.
George: Yeah the Grand Ole Opry, we would listen to that every Saturday night.
James: I can see you now sitting by that radio listening to the Grand Ole Opry, it was about the only time you had to sit down and rest. I do remember when I was a boy, my mother loved to play the radio, there were programs then sort of like the Soap Opera's now, and my mothers favorite every afternoon was the Pepper Young family, and they would do a certain sequence and they would continue on the next day, but it was really like the modern day soap opera, except you had to listen to it on the radio to keep up with it. So at that time you could play the radio and just go about your work, you didn't have to stop and see what was going on. But my family always enjoyed music and we just kept the radio going a lot of the time for the music, and then there was shows like Amos and Andy, and things of that nature we would listen to on the radio at times, but every Saturday night we had to listen to the Grand Ole Opry.
Misty: Were the times good in Bland County in the 1950's?
George: Yes, they was pretty good.
James: Yes and no. Seems like things were cheap, but money was hard to come by. You might be interested to know, in the 1950's, dad's wages for the entire day was two dollars a day.
James: He got two dollars a day and he got 1/3 of the grain crops that was raised, in other wise, the wheat crop, out of every three bushels he got a bushel. He told you later about the corn after it had been shocked, out of every three shocks he got one, he got a third of those. About all you can say about the 1950's was that we had plenty to eat and we had clothes to wear, but times were pretty hard.
Holly: What did you think of President Kennedy and where was you when he got shot?
James: I will answer that first. I was at college. I was sitting in class. I noticed, I could see through the glass door, through the glass in the door that there was some students in the hallway, and some of them looked like they were crying, and soon as class was over, we went outside they begin to tell us that President Kennedy had been assassinated, and that the chapel at Emory and Henry College had been opened, that students had gathered there to pray for the country.
George: Yeah, I was at the cannery working, and I didn't know it until I closed the cannery and went out to the store there and the fellow in the store told me had been shot.
Misty: Describe the farm that you were raised on.
George: Way back years ago, they didn't have any tractors and everything was horse powered, and you just had a walking plow, and plow out the back, and they finally got a riding plow, you hooked two horses up and plow two rows at a time. You usually raised about everything then, and you mowed the hay you had to mow that with horses, and you had two horses. And when you mowed it down you had to take a rake and rake it up. And you had to shock it, shock it up, in formation, about as high as your head, and you had to haul it into stacks, and you stacked in the field into great big stacks, and you would have to pull these in to stack it, you would run a pole through it, and role over the top end and grab it in like that, and put a rope around it. You use to go to the mountains and get a grapevine, you know one of them great big long grapevine, and use one of them to drag your shocks in, and you stacked, you put about three hundred shocks in a stack. It usually took about an acre for a stack. We had a garden and a cane. Back then we had a cane. You would have to work it up a little past September, and make some molasses, anything like that you had to cook out you had a great big crowd to gather around you know, it makes some molasses sticky, and you would have a molasses taffy pulling. At night you would pill it up, and stretch it out real far you know, they had an awful time with things like that. We would make applebutter, and stir it up in kettles you know and back then people didn't can that much all your apples, and sliced ham and dry ham, and put them up for the winter, and beans you would string them and dry them, and everything like that, you didn't do any canning at all. And when you killed hogs, you could salt them, put them down in salt, but you didn't have any fridgeration and you had to keep them salted, and nobody canned ham, I know my mother would make sacks about that long and about that big around, and pack it plum full of salts from one end to the other, and dip it down in a container of hot grease, and that sealed it over, you could hang it up, and slice it as sausage the whole season through. And there wasn't any glass jars then, but they didn't do any canning, and you would put these in these stone crocks, you have seen them, one gallon, two gallon, you would put them in that and put a top over on it, and use it all winter long. And it would make pickles, and you would have to put them down in brine, and you would keep them in a keg all winter, and you would make kraut, of course you would have your salt, and you would keep that all winter, but there wasn't anything to can, you had to keep everything like that.
Misty: What were you telling us about before? How much land did you have? When you first go here.
James: On the farm that dad worked on for about 65 years the three main crops that was raised was corn, and wheat, and barley, and potatoes, we have put out close to an acre of potatoes, I can remember one time we dug over three hundred bushels of potatoes, in September. And they kept all kind of cattle on the farm. Maybe a hundred head, and sheep, and had some hogs, always kept chickens.
George: A big gang of turkeys. From down there, they would come up here in this holler, and I would have to go get them every evening, because you would have to get before dark because they would fly up. And just drive them in, a whole mile, I would have to go in there to bring them in, every evening. That is where you make the most money off of turkeys, isn't it?
James: How did you say they dressed them and packed them for them to be picked up?
George: Why yeah, you would dress them, you had to dry pick them, see you would put them in water, scolding some or another, you would have to leave cuts in the end of the wing to let them know they were just right, see, and you just take them and pack them in these barrels, a whole big barrel full and take them to the depot and they would ship them like that and that was the main crop back then, money making thing was turkeys. Yeah everybody kept a big gang of turkeys for extra spending money.
James: Now what we did with the third of our share of the grain crops dad always kept two sows and the pigs off of them he would keep and he would take the grain and have it made into chop and fatten those, and this was one of the things we made most of our extra spending money on was selling the hogs, of course we kept two milk cows, and mom would churn butter, and then we would have the two calves to sell off of those, but we didn't have any share of the livestock, but on the farm there was usually a hundred head maybe fifty head of sheep, quite a few hogs, and then a pretty good flock of chickens.
Holly: Where did you get your drinking water?
Misty: Where was the spring at?
George: Well different places it was usually pretty close to the house back then there wasn't any power to pump it in you had to carry in a bucket and carry it in
Misty: What did you plant in your garden?
George: Well we planted potatoes, peas, onions, and all kinds vegetables beans n' limas n' lettuce n' radishes n' beets.
James: We've never tried any since I am old enough to remember but dad tells about one time even raising peanuts and celery in the garden.
George: Yeah when I was in livin' in the house with Miss Allen down there we had a garden across the creek it was sandy and we'd grow the celery in there. You'd put it down in a trench and as it would grow you'd keep the dirt pulled up to it. I put a paper around it you know and it would grow up 'at high, and it would blast plum up. Growing the Chinese cabbage and peanuts, and them peanuts they was just a whole mount of them you know and you could take them when you was young and boil 'em and the shell is good like 'at when it was tender. If it got hard then you would have to bring it out like you have peanuts know.
James: People always tried to put out several rows of what we call brown beans now to dry, to shell out to have for the winter. Because you didn't go to the store then and buy your dried beans you raised your own and put 'em up for the wintertime.
George: I put out a half acre one time for the corn plantin' and there was Birdeyes, n' let me see there was another kind, there was pintos too, Octobers, and we'd take trailer and just pick 'em off in the field just sacks full. And bring them sacks in and put 'em out and along the wall. Some of 'em would just get on and tromp 'em, the beans out sack and kept you time in take both shafts out of them and you'd have four hundred pounds to put away for the winter.
James: We always some of what we call runnin' beans in the cornfield to run up on the corn. I can remember going through the cornfield pickin' all kinds of pretty runnin' beans and we'd put out pumpkins of all kinds in the cornfield too. After we'd cut the corn off in the fall, I remember taking the tractor and the farm wagon and every now picking up pumpkins by the trailer load and bringin' them in and we'd burst some of the pumpkins up feed them to the hogs. Of course we always enjoyed making some pumpkin butter and we'd put acorn squash and things like that in the cornfield and we used to have well, it's called a ground cherry. They would grow wild in the cornfields through here and in the fall before frost they would get ripe and fall off the vines they're called ground cherries and there are a little bit bigger than a green pea. And the ones that grew wild here were yellow. We'd pick 'em up buy the bushel baskets in the fall, and make preserves out of them.
George: They was really good, the wild ones, wasn't they.
Holly: Did you go by the moon or any other sign?
George: Yeah, lots of things we'd go by the moon if you plant 'em in the dark of the moon they would stay down and wouldn't come up and when you'd dig your potatoes if you dig 'em in the dark of the moon you can cut one in half and will just seal over and won't rot. If you cut in the light of the moon it will rot if you bruise 'em in any way. Yeah, butcher them in different times.
Misty: Did you can?
George: Yes we did a lot of canning back then.
James: Not in the old days, but in recent times.
George: That's what mean in recently.
James: He told about how they used to preserve things when he was a little boy. As far as I am concerned I primarily grew up in the Mechanicsburg cannery where my mother and daddy worked. Of course it was open two days a week for the public. But we really canned in my days I expect just for our use we probably filled a thousand cans every year. And we still continue this tradition now we all enjoy canning in the summer time now, freezing our things and making all kinds of soups and relishes and things of that nature. So we have continued the family tradition of canning. Dad is the applebutter maker he still after he is retired out of the cannery he still has to go back each summer and make a little applebutter for some of his customers that he has had over the years. He has a quite a reputation for making applebutter.
Holly: How long did you all can and work at the cannery?
George: About thirty some years.
Misty: Did the farm life leave you much time to devote to school?
George: Did it what?
James: Your farm work, which is why you had to quit school wasn't it?
George: Yeah, I know I did to farm.
James: What dad is saying is he was needed to do farm chores and they elected for him to stay home and work on the farm instead of going to school. But now in my day, dad always told me that it was very important for me to go to school and he would get somebody to help him. So dad never did keep me out of school to work on the farm, in fact I went from the third grade to the eleventh grade in school without missing a day.
Misty and Holly: Wow!
Going to Town
Holly: Did you go to town much? Or nighttime school activities? After school?
James: We didn't go to town much like we do now. We raised a lot of things but there was always things that you had to buy from the grocery stores too. Going to town was a special event maybe once a month we'd take off and maybe spend the biggest part of the day in town. My mother liked to go through the stores like Park-Belk and stores like that. We went to Pulaski a lot and there was a lady who went with mom to shop and they would always say that they had to go out and turn things over in the stores, that they were molding, but going out shopping was a big event, it wasn't something that you did very often. Christmas shopping as a big event, we would probably go spend all day long sometimes up close Christmas getting our Christmas packages in. One of the favorite times was getting to go to Pulaski to shop. There was a little place that sold hot dogs for ten cents a piece, and they'd usually be mother, daddy, my sister and I, the four of us, and we could get eight hot-dogs and our soft drinks for a dollar. So that was one of the real thrills of getting to go shopping was to get to go to a little place called Roy's lunch in Pulaski and get all of those hot dogs and drinks. They tasted so good, and I think it was because it was something we didn't get to do too often.
Misty: Did you get to go to town a lot?
George: Not too often, kept me busy on the farm, on a rainy day or things like that were the days we would go shop. If we did my wife and another lady would go with her, and put in a day when they did go.
James: We didn't have a vehicle when I was a little boy, for us to get to go somewhere daddy often had to go to the farm managers and borrow their big ton truck to take us in, and of course before my sister come along mother, dad, and I fit O.K. in the cab, but we didn't have a vehicle of our own, when you had to borrow a vehicle to go out you just didn't go to often. But then we finally were able to afford a vehicle of our own and we began to go a little more, but still it wasn't often, and going out to town was an event we looked forward to.
Holly: Did people visit much more back then?
George: Yes, visit a lot of the time.
James: You will probably enjoy hearing this I can remember before we got TV we would actually go visit someone's house who had a TV to get to see it, now you want the TV shut off when visitors come, but we would enjoy, I know there was a lady up here in Mechanicsburg, we would go up about one night a week and set and visit just to get to watch TV, but it seems like on Sunday afternoon people would do quite a bit of visiting, and families got together, I know that I had a favorite aunt over on Little Creek, which is in another section of Bland County, we would have to go over there about every three weeks, and also had grandparents we need to visit. So families were large, people got together a lot for big dinners and things, and yes people did a lot more visiting then they do now. People today visit in a different way, they are out a lot and they see people and they call each other on the telephone, so I guess people today keep better contact than what they did then, but it was actually going to peoples houses.
Misty: What kind of out buildings were on your farm like barns, n' sheds, n' corn cribs?
James: Yes there was a corncrib to keep the corn in, you had to have a grainry to keep the small grain in like oats and wheat and barley. You had to have what was called a smokehouse to cure the hams in and keep those in. Most of the farms what was called a springhouse and since there were no refrigerators this is where the milk was kept. You had to have barns. Some people that had sheep would have sheep sheds. I believe that's got most of it covered. Of course you had to have an outside building to keep farm machinery and tools and things in. Some people just refer to them as a tool shed. Anything else you had when you was a boy?
George: You'd have to cut the logs and to take them to the sawmill and get planks you know sawed out and bring them back for your buildings.
James: In other words instead going out like we today to a place like Lowe's to buy lumber, you went out and cut your own trees off of you property. Then you hauled to the saw mill and had the boards made and sometime you'd have to plane on them to make them smoother and sometime you would go ahead and put them up the way they come from the saw mill. Most people at that time took logs off of their own property to the sawmill to have lumber cut and they were built out of boards.
Misty: Did you have chickens?
George: Yes, we always kept chickens. Sometimes we let 'em and they ran in wooded area and the fox would get 'em sometimes. Wouldn't they? And kill a few. But we always kept, I guess, around a hundred hens.
James: In those days you could take the eggs to the grocery stores and you could trade them for groceries. In other words, maybe the eggs you took in were a quarter a dozen and you could use that quarter to buy things that you needed like sugar and can lids in the summer time or things of that nature.
George: If you didn't spend it all the things that you'd take to sell they would give you a due bill instead of giving you money and you'd take that back the next time then.
Holly: What kind of chickens did you raise?
George: Well we raised Rollin Reds and Silvercross. Never did fool with any Leggins, did we?
James: I had, what I call my pet chicken when I was a little boy, they are really what you call Plymouth Rock and they were a black and white chicken. We always nicknamed them Dominekers. I had an old hen and I just go out pick her and love her, seemed like she enjoyed that. But I called her an old Domineker chicken.
Holly: Who gathered the eggs?
James: Did you when you was a boy?
George: Yeah, I liked to gather eggs. You'd go out and take a bucket and get it full, two-gallon bucket, ten quart bucket.
James: I liked to gather eggs until what you call the chicken hen would start setting. When they started setting that meant that you could take 'em and put eggs under them and they could sit on them for three weeks, and incubate them, then you hatch them into little chickens. Certain times of the year they'd decide that they're gonna start setting, and if you don't need them to set to hatch out little chickens, you want to break 'em up. They'll just sit on the nest and many a time I'd reach in under them and they would peck my hand, so I never liked to gather eggs when the chickens had decide that it was time for them to start setting.
George: They would hatch the little chickens, you'd make cooks you know to put the little chickens in and you'd put a staub down and tie a string around the hen to keep there at the cook, keep them from running off with the little chickens and dragging them out in the wind. Sometimes you would have five of six cooks sitting there with little chickens in it.
Misty: Did you kill your chickens for dinner?
George: Uh-uh, you'd have chicken quite often to eat.
Misty: Who killed them?
George: Well, anybody could kill them. When I was handy, I did a lot of it. We used to raise a whole bunch and we'd fix forty at a time. Then we took them to Pulaski they had a cooler then, we'd put them in it. We keep them there and go get one whenever we wanted one, already fixed you know.
James: Back before we could afford to have a freezer of our own in the home, there was a place in Pulaski, he is referring to, it was called a locker plant. You could rent a space in there to keep your frozen things in. When you'd go to Pulaski and you would go in and open up your locker and you'd get what you could bring home and maybe put in the top of your refrigerator freezer. This was after we had electricity and had refrigerators. If you couldn't afford a freezer, you could rent a space there and we would kill our chickens and wrap them in freezer paper. Then we would take them over there and store them. Some people would wait 'til the day they were going to serve chicken and they'd, I've seen them go out a chase a chicken for a long time to catch one, so they could kill it and cook it that day to have chicken n' dumplings or whatever.
Holly: Did you have a milk cow?
George: We don't know, but we did back then, we always kept two anyway. Didn't we?
James: You and Ms. Allen, yaw used to milk eight or ten. Didn't you?
George: Yeah, we milked ten or twelve. That was back then, you milked it and they'd come by and pick it up. And you'd put it that can like on the front porch, you' put it in them and sat in the spring branch to keep it cool. We did that for years. After that then they'd quit pickin' it up. You'd separate it and take the cream, then a fellow from up in Mechanisburg come by and pick it and take it Radford, the cream, once a week. You'd keep the cream that long, you know, in the water and it would stay cool, then he'd pick it up and take it over there.
Holly: Did you ever get kicked?
George: Yes I have a time or two. The cows kicked the milk over a time or two too. Haa Haa
Misty: What kind of dairy products did you sell?
George: We'd sell the butter and a lot of them would make cheese and sell it.
James: And we gave the milk to the hogs, they loved to drink that milk. And it was good for 'em.
Holly: Did you raise any beef cattle?
George: Yeah, I have always raised a few.
Holly: What breeds did you have?
George: Well different ones, Holstein, Black Angus, Charlais, and just a variety of them.
Misty: Tell us about where you used to feed your beef cows salt.
George: Yeah, you'd have to salt 'em at least once a week. If you didn't keep your milk cow salted you couldn't hardly churn the butter. If you salted them regular the water would come right down.
James: Tell them about blowing the horn and getting' 'em out of the woods.
George: Had all the cattle and keep them usually a hundred head through here and used have a truck to blow them in, and to come plum up from this end to drive them in. Sometimes if it was hot they'd take to the woods and everything, it was to drive. I got to where I'd take the old truck down there and blow the horn and they'd come out of the woods everywhere and get the salt. We raised turkeys then and they'd in that ridge down there and lay the eggs, you'd have to usually keep them up and turn them out. When they'd go to the nest they would peek back to see if you were watching, if they knew you was watching them they wouldn't go to nest at all. You had to hide were they wouldn't see you. They would on top of that ridge and lay up in there. As long as you left an egg or two in the nest and keep going to that land, but if you took them all out they'd quit and make another nest. Built a big pin to hatch eggs in, for the little turkeys. When they got up a certain size we would turn them loose and they'd range all over the place for grasshoppers and bugs and things like that. They'd just keep feeding and going. Then I would have to come out and drive them in, I would have to get them in before dark, if you didn't they would fly and be out for the night. If you had an old goose now you have drove him all night.
Holly and Misty: Hee.Hee
George: But not a turkey.
Holly: You said that you raised hogs, what kind of hogs did you raise?
George: Well raised different kinds, Hampshire's
James: A few Yorkshires.
George: Yeah, Yorkshires and about four different kinds
Misty: Did you kill them yourself?
George: Unh-uh, no. Back years ago they had wooden barrels they didn't have tin barrels you know. You would bore a whole in that barrel about that big and you'd put a pipe in it and run it down about 12 feet and build a fire to that pipe you had to keep it elevated down and when the water got hot it would shoot back in the barrel which you had it up level, and it would heat your water. You could build a fire around there and heat or you put metal in that and let them get hot and you'd put them in the water and heat it. Later in then they had metal barrels and you could build a fire behind them and heat your water and you just scold one end of the hog at a time. Put the head part in a scold that, then turn it around and scold the other end. It would take all the hair off. They got a bath then, you put the fire under the bath and make like a molasses pan. You have seen molasses made haven't you? It was a bath and you built your fire under that and it helps your water. You'd have to get the water up to about 155 degrees to get a good scold on your hogs. And you'd have a chain in there and flip the hog over you know, to turn him. The hair would turn loose good, you'd put him out on a board then you put a pole in and open him up. Let them hang all night and cut them up the next day and work the meat out of it.
James: After you got the hair off of them and the two hind feet. You'd use a stick that was called gambling stick, to hang them by that stick upon what you always called putting the hog on the pole. You'd hang him up by his hind feet.
Misty: Did you have horses?
George: Yes we had horses on the farm to work.
James: He had his horses trained, most of the people had to use lines to pull them to the right or to the left but a lot of times he could just talk to his old horses and get them work. I can remember when I was a little boy I'd see him crawl under them and hook the harness up to them. He could usually get out in the field and whistle and here they would come for him. I thank it was about 1948 before he had his first tractor to work with.
George: Yeah it was '48 when I got the tractor.
James: So he worked with horses until 1948.
Misty: So the tractor was a great luxury?
George: It sure was.
Misty: Describe how you would prepare the ground for planting?
George: Well, you would plow it first, with the horses when you didn't have a tractor, you'd plow it with horses. And let it lay there a while, and when it would dry out you'd drag it down and disc it up. Get your soil worked up good for a good bed, for planting your seeds.
Holly: Did you have an orchard or any fruit trees?
George: Yes, we always had a few fruit trees.
James: We had pear trees, apple trees, .
George : Cherry trees
James: Blackberries usually grew wild but now we have some tame blackberries in our garden. We didn't fool with too many peaches but we always had nice pears. Fruit was one of the main standbys we always made a lot of applesauce. I think maybe one summer we made over 200 quarts of applesauce, to have that winter. We'd use about a quart a day in the wintertime.
Misty: You'd sell them in cans instead like by the whole fruit?
James: Those apples I was telling you about we kept for ourselves. When I was in high school and in some of my years in college, I did can some things to sell and had some customers. I used to have one lady in Bluefield that always bought about 72 quarts of dill pickle each summer from me. I can remember it would have been somewhere about '64 or '65 I think I made right at a thousand jars of pickles to sell. I remember one week I worked up three bushels of cucumbers.
Holly: How did you cut firewood before chainsaws?
George: Had a crosscut saw. One on each end, it had a handle to it. You ever seen one?
Holly: On TV.
George: I got a couple over there in the building now. They have a handle on each end, just backwards and forwards.
James: We used to get our wood in long pieces when I was a boy. After they got the tractor they was a belt that you could hook to a cut off saw on a tractor and you could run it and saw the wood into pieces you could split up that would fit in a stove. So this was a great improvement for us, when you use the tractor to saw wood.
Misty: Did you have a sawmill on your farm?
George: No, we didn't have a sawmill on the farm.
Misty: Did you do any logging?
George: I have logged some, yes.
Misty: How did you pull the logs out of the mountains?
George: Back then I logged with horses. Two horses and grab hooks and drive them in log and drag them out.
James: You had to saw them down with the crosscut saw.
George: Yeah, cross cut saw.
Holly: What was your favorite job on the farm?
George: Everything come handy I didn't have no favorite, I don't guess.
Holly: What was your least favorite?
George: I didn't pay much attention to any of them. Whatever came along.
James: My least favorite was the day that we had to do what was called the threshing. We would cut the wheat and barley and set it up in shocks and they would come through with a threshing machine in those days and you'd have to load the bundles of grain onto a wagon to haul it in the machine. It would separate the grain and leave what we call straw. It was always dusty that was one I always hated seemed like that was the day that I had to work the hardest of the year. And sometime we'd get to goin' real good, it took about fourteen of fifteen people to keep the threshing machine going. And if it come up a storm and got the green wet then you had to quit for the day, and wait til another day when it dried out cause you couldn't thresh it out when it was wet, if you did the grain would mold. You want to take good care of the grain because we took some of it to have flour made for our own use. That was the day that was my least favorite was days we did our threshing.
Misty: These are church questions. Did you go to church when you were a boy?
James: My first recollection of going to church, I can remember daddy borrowing the ton truck that I told you about a while ago that was used on the farm. Seems like it was just yesterday, a little 'ol feller getting' up in the cab of that truck with my dad and he would take me to Sunday school. As long as I can remember I always went to church. For a long time we went to church up here at Mechanicsburg called Burns Chapel. This is the third church that is on the site up there, it was first called Nicewander Meeting House, I think it burned. This is the third church there, I think it dates back to maybe 1820's or 1830's. Since 1977 we have all been going to church at Rocky Gap. Now dad will tell you about his remembrance of going to church as a boy.
George: We usually go every Sunday to some church, it was walking distance. In Giles, we had to cross the creek on the swinging bridge. Get out in the middle and shake that thing. Hee hee. We had to walk then.
Holly: What denomination was your church.
James: We have all been Methodist.
Misty: Do you know when you first began attending church?
James: I can't remember a time not going. About all of our lives.
Holly: Were you baptized in the church?
George: In the creek.
Holly: Describe the baptism. Was it in a creek? Were there a lot of people there?
George: Yeah, Walker's Creek.
James: Now when I was baptized, of course in the Methodist Church you are allowed to immersed or sprinkled. I was baptized by sprinkling there had been a big a revival at our church there was about forty people at one time that was being accepted into the church. There was a about twelve or fifteen of us that was baptized by sprinkling. I can remember they did that in the church then we all got in the vehicles and went down on Walker's Creek some of them were baptized down there by immersion. Mine was by sprinkling.
Misty: So your church had revivals?
Misty: What were they like?
James: They would last a week or two. There would usually be some special singing and special preaching. People would fill the churches in those days for revivals. The one I was telling you about there was forty people saved in the revival that I was saved in.
Misty: Did people come from far away?
James: Well a lot of people in Bland County then were still big families, it wasn't nothing unusual for mother and dad and five or six kids, it didn't take long to fill up a church. They didn't come from too far for revivals. They get gather down here in Giles County, years and years ago, at the Wabash Meeting Place they would come in wagons and stay there. They would just camp out that is why they called them camp meetings they would camp out and leave their crops and things behind a go down a stay for a week and camp out. Now that is before my day. But I have been down there at the Wabash grounds where Brother Sheffey used to hold his revivals and camp meetings. They have meeting place there now on the same site, I have been in there from Eggleston in Giles County. It wasn't too hard to fill up a church, I can remember as a boy there was usually ninety to hundred every Sunday in the little country church up here in Mechanisburg.
Misty: How about homecomings did you have those?
James: Homecomings and what they call dinner on the ground. When you say dinner on the ground it really was, ants and all. You'd spread your cloth out on the ground and share dinner. Then I can remember when some of the churches began to have tables outside. It wasn't uncommon for them to pull in big farm wagons and cover them and put the food out on them if they didn't have picnic tables. Another thing that people used to gather for in the Methodist church is what they call quarterly conference. The district superintendant would come in and different churches would gather and have dinner. They would have meetings and take care of the business of the church.
Misty: What would the church do for Christmas?
George: I don't remember.
James: We always had a Christmas play. We would learn our parts and say them. We'd always have a manger scene, Christmas tree. We looked forward to getting a Christmas treat from Sunday School usually would an orange and a pack of chewing gum and a candy bar on something like that. We would draw names in our Sunday School classes and get a gift and put it under the tree and then exchange them. Usually we would have some kind of Christmas program and exchange gifts and got a treat from the Sunday School.
Holly: What would the church do for Easter?
James: At Mechanisburg the churches would get together and have a Sunrise Service in the cemetery. I can remember being at a couple of them that you had to wear your winter coat on it was real cold. We would gather and sing a few songs real early in the morning. We would have a minister that would say a few words. Then the Mechanisburg Ruritan Club would serve breakfast in the Mechanisburg school. People would go there then to church. The Methodist churches here in Mechanisburg was on a circuit you only got preaching one Sunday a month. If Easter fell on Sunday morning we would have preaching if not we would just have Sunday school. You could always see people with their hats on going to church and new dresses and things of that nature, a lot like it is now. Occasionally if it was a Sunday that Easter fell on that the preacher wouldn't be there the Sunday school might have a little program the children would do a few things. Maybe on Friday or Saturday they would try to have egg hunt for the kids.
Misty: What would you wear to church?
George: Most of the time it just depended on the season was or you wear a suit in the winter and in the summer you would just wear your slacks and a shirt or something like that.
James: It wasn't uncommon when I was just to wear your blue jeans to church on Sunday. Of course blue jeans are stylish now, but when I was a boy that is what you had was blue jeans. I know this off the subject but my shirt that I've got a picture of that was made when I was in the first grade out of feed sack. The people would buy feed in those days in hundred pound sacks they would have a real pretty design and different things on them. After the feed was emptied they would be washed up real good and they would use them to make clothes out of. Some of my earliest clothes that I wore to church was little shirts made out of feed sacks and my blue jeans. Of course we always dressed up for special occasions. There were times you were expected to wear a suit.
Misty: So your mother made your clothes?
James: My mom sewed some but my mother's sister usually made my clothes. My little pajamas that I first remember was made out of feed sack. I used to sleep on a roll away cot when I was a boy, my sheets were made of feed sack. There were white. The things that you would were to Sunday school were little things that like, but when we had preaching we dressed up a little bit more.
Misty: Did you have evening services?
James: We had preaching on first Sunday morning and third Sunday nigh,t so yes we had Sunday night preaching services but then we had United Methodist fellowship. The young people always met every Sunday night. We used to have weenie roasts, hayrides, and meetings. We grew up in a time when church had Sunday night services.
Holly: Was there socializing after church?
James: People always enjoyed talking, yes that's true.
George: Wouldn't get in any hurry going home, would they now? They talked before and after.
Holly: What was Sunday dinner like?
George: Usually have something extra, macaroni and cheese, chicken and different things like that. Ham, back then you had plenty meat of all kind. You' have whatever you prefer.
James: Families liked to get together a lot of times for Sunday dinner. I can remember going to my grandmother and there would be so many people there that they would eat in shifts. One bunch would got through and eat then they would clear the table, then another bunch would come in and eat. Sometimes dinner lasted a long time, if you were the last one to eat.
Misty: Did you have fancy breakfasts on Sunday morning?
George: Just the usual , bacon, eggs, sometimes hotcakes.
James: A lot of bacon in that day was just country pork that was fried up.
George: We used to take it to a place that they made regular bacon out of it and they would slice it and everything, it was really good wasn't it?
Misty: How was Mechanicsburg different from in the past?
James: I don't know.
George: Well they use to have a bank up there didn't they? And the hotel, the post office, and shops. A man up there use to make the wagons out you know, the spokes and tires and everything, all that, none of that up there now.
Misty: What happened to it?
George: It just moved out I guess, so many everywhere else, and they weren't getting as much business.
James: Of course our school in Mechanicsburg burned, I believe it was 1961, the building burned, and in the place of where the school was, when I was a boy, there is a community center now, and of course the Mechanicsburg cannery sets up to the left, from where the school was, and the community building now. But it seems like to me, when a community loses it school that it goes down, and a lot of our younger people from Mechanicsburg have moved away. There are quite a few elderly people now, and of course the big farms that were surrounding Mechanicsburg some of them have broken up, for instance this thousand acre farm that dad farmed on, in which we live on the upper part of it, well there may be as many as five or ten people who own parts of land on it now, so some of the big farms have broken up, and a lot of the little family businesses no longer exist. I can remember the foundation of the hotel in Mechanicsburg, but I can't remember the hotel. But I understand, according to the Bland County History book that Mechanicsburg got its name from mechanics and all the shops and stuff that was going on up here, so I understand that years ago it was quite a busy place.
Holly: Was there a local newspaper for Mechanicsburg?
James: Not in my time, all I can remember is the Bland Messenger, and it was pretty much as it is today, except it was only one sheet or four pages to it. And of course you could read all of it, you didn't have all these extra articles. Most of it was Bland County news then, but it was usually just the four pages or one big newspaper sheet. But at Mechanicburg we didn't have a newspaper.
Misty: Do you know what caused the school to burn down?
James: There was an electrical shortage that was in the wiring, somewhere near the library, and it happened during the school day, also the little community cannery beside of it was operating that day, and they saw the smoke and got everybody out safely, but wasn't much saved of it. I do have a little relic or two in my possession that come from the ruins of the fire, but there wasn't much saved. And that was the end of the school, and to finish out that year, there was a Baptist parsonage that was vacant, and the school kids finished out the year in that, and the next year they all went to Bland. So that was the end of the Mechanicsburg school.
Holly: Well there is a legend that we heard about, the Newberry Haircut, that we thought you could inform us on.
James: You may be referring to the murder tragedy that happened in Mechanicsburg. I gave Mr. Dodson a picture of the jury that was on that trial, and my grandfather was one of the members of that jury. But for years and years it was quite a thing that brought chills up and down your back, to think of the way the lady was murdered and her head cut off, and there was a place over on Walkers Mountain where her body was dumped, and I can remember every time we would go by there, my mother would always say something about it, so it was quite a tragic thing for our community.
Misty: How many schools were in Mechanicsburg?
James: There was the one school, I can't remember when it was a high school, but, and when it was high school I think it was just grades one to nine, but I entered school in Mechanicsburg in 1951, and at that time it was only grades one to seven. And there, I know of a few little one room schools that existed around, but I can't exactly think of the location of them. I believe somewhere, that maybe at one time that Bland County has thirty-some one room schools, and I know there was some around, but I don't remember any of them being active in my day.
Do you remember any of the schools?
Misty: In the Newberry Haircut, you said there was a trial? Who was put to trial?
James: Was it Sam and Jack?
George: Yeah, Sam and Jack.
James: Two Newberry brothers, I think Sam and Ralph or Jack, one was his nickname, anyway, I was so small I can't remember to much about it.
Misty: Do you know what the outcome was?
James: They were given prison term, I do know that one of them was paroled, and I can remember when that took place. I don't remember about the other one, um, did he die? Did he die in jail?
James: He died in jail didn't he? I believe one of them died in prison, but one of them was paroled.
Misty: Do you know if he is still alive, or was that a long time ago?
James: No, he is not alive now. There is a few member of the family, they live down on Walkers Creek.
Misty: In the schools in Mechanicsburg, do you remember who the principals may have been or the teachers?
James: The principal when I went to school there was Mr. Harry Bird, and I am talking about 1951 when I started. I can't remember any of the principals previous to that.
Misty: How about the teachers?
James: Um, there was a lady, Ms. Pearl Franklin that taught there, and Carolyn Scott, who later married a Mustard, Carolyn Mustard, she still lives up here in Mechanicsburg, she taught there at one time. There was Betty Sue Groseclose, taught there. A Miss Penly, taught there, Alberta Harmon, and Louise and Harry Bird taught there for years, bout all the way I can remember until the school burned.
Misty: About how many teachers were there? Was it like ten or...?
James: Just three.
Misty: Just three, oh O.K. Did you ever get into trouble at school?
James: Did you ever get into any trouble at school?
George: Just one time I think, but it wasn't blamed on me. There was one fellow there who like to run everything, and we was pitching horseshoes over in the bottom of the school, and he got mad at the way he was throwing, because he was winning, and I just picked up the horseshoe and just rung it in to and throwed it over, and it mad him mad, and he jumped on me. And then I whipped him, and went in, the teacher, she thought he hit me, she said, I am really glad, he needed that, it was coming to him, he has run everything here, and after that, he was the best one they had in school.
Misty: Do you remember any funny stories or pranks that were pulled?
James: Do you have any funnies to tell these girls?
James: You don't have anymore funnies? Lord mercy, I ought to think of some good ones.
Holly: Is there anything else you would like to add about Mechanicsburg, or about farming, or about church or anything?
Misty: Did you say you were a tenant farmer?
James: Dad was, uh-huh.
Misty: Who was your, I really don't understand tenant farming.
Holly: Me neither.
James: What tenant farming is, there are people who own the land, the lady dad told you about, coming here to work for 65 years ago, was Maud Alan, she owned the farm, and they would provide you a place to live, and the house belong to the land owner, they provided you a place to live in, and in the, this is a tenant farmer or share cropper, and I told you earlier about getting a third of the wheat, barely, and grain, and potato's, and we put out our own garden, and we had a small track that we could keep some cows, and some hogs and chickens and things in, but the land owner owned everything, what happened then. When you worked in the crops, you didn't get paid, you just got your share of the crop, but then when you would put up hay, or work with the cattle or something like that, that wasn't in your part of the crop, you got paid so much a day. I think when dad first started working he got paid fifty cents a day.
James: Seventy-five? Oh I thought it was fifty. He got seventy-five cents a day for his work, and what, and this is when he lived in the house with Miss Alan, and daddy said that he couldn't go out and work on the farm, she would keep him busy around the house, had a lot of fireplaces and stoves and things to carry in wood for and she wouldn't pay him when he worked around the house, only when he went out and worked on the farm. But basically, it was called share cropping, you got a share of the crops, and they provided you with a place to live and then you were doing something that wasn't related to your crops they would pay you a daily wage. Now dads situation was probably more extreme then a lot of people, they only paid him once a year. He kept what was called a little time book, and if he didn't get in half a days work, he didn't get paid for it, and he could record a days work or a half a days work, now on Sunday, for instance, the cattle had to be fed, in the winter time, and because it wasn't a half a days work he didn't get paid, any pay at all for feeding the cows on Sunday. But say during the week, say on Monday, if he fed the cattle and then went on and worked on the farm for the rest of the day, he would get a days wages, and then when I was boy, when they would settle up with him once a year, they took out, they would pay the electric bill on the house, and then at the end of the year, when they would settle up, they would take out the charge for the electric bill. So that was really what it was, they would give you a place to live, you could keep some livestock or your own, you got a share of the crops, and then you got to take care of all the crops, but when you were doing work other than your share of the crops, you would get paid for it. But otherwise, your pay was the share you got out of the crops that was raised.
Misty: The only other question I can think of, is how long have you been cutting meat?
George: I have been cutting meat, let me see, when did we get the saw up at the cannery to cut meat up there.
James: I think it was probably in the '60's.
George: In the 60's I'd say.
James: So you have been cutting meat for thirty-some years.
George: When I quit the cannery, we put the building in, out here, to cut and wrap for people.
Misty: That is all unless you want to add something.
James: You got anything else you would like to tell these girls? Did you think of any funnies?
George: We will wait and see.
James: We know some funnies, but we better not tell them.
Holly: Oh boy.
Misty: O.K., well that is it. Thank you
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