Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Pecan Basket Rails

When I was a young kid,  my family and I used to go visit my Aunt Arbelle Creamer in her big old wooden house. It was a lot larger than the one pictured here and had a really large porch that I loved to jump off of and play on. It seemed so tall with 6 steps to get to the porch itself and there were no hand rails as I recall. Probably because my people were wiry and tough. They could get up and down those steps without any help carrying a basket or two on their hips. 

The porch was lined with wooden rockers and on any given day my Aunt or other members of the family, were outside rocking the day away after a long day of chores. The porch back then was not just a place to keep the rain off the front door; it was a place to observe life.  We might have been outside rocking but we were noticing the few cars that came down the road, we were forecasting what kind of day it was going to be or night, and we were often planning what we were going to do next, although we would not state that out loud. Some of the menfolk would smoke a pipe and the women were usually busy with shucking corn, shelling peas and beans, or cracking and shelling pecans. We did not have the nutcrackers they have today to use to crack all those nuts. We either did it in our hands cracking two nuts against each other or we put a nut in a handkerchief and hit it with a hammer. Sometimes we had an assembly line going. One would be cracking, one would be shelling, and one would be checking the final bowl for little piece of shell that you did not want in your pecans to sell or to eat. It went very fast considering how many pecans we shelled every year. 

I did not realize how hard my family had to work then. The only job or income Aunt Arbelle had as I recall,  were her pecan trees. People would come and pick pecans or they could buy ones from her already shelled. If you have never shelled pecans for any length of time, it is hard to understand just how much it hurts after awhile, but she did this everyday without complaint. 

I helped shell pecans at times but more often than not, I was asked to shimmy up the trees and shake the branches. I loved doing this even though I was hit in the head a hundred times by the falling shells. The trees were huge and filled with nuts and they littered the ground when we were done. Then we would pick them up in baskets and put then on the porch. When we were done the porch would have a rail made from baskets and that was the only rail the big old porch had on two sides. 

Sometimes in the stillness of the night such as this, I can still hear that screen door slamming and my Aunt Arbelle yelling to us.. "Either come in or go out", she would say. LOL. We knew that we had to make a decision to stay out or it would be made for us.

What a daunting task that much have been to shell the pecans, bag them, and bake stuff with them to make a living, but I can't ever remember her being cross. She simply accepted her life and went about living it. 

What a lesson for life that was for me! 

She had no expectations about her life. She knew that tomorrow morning she would wake with the dawn and begin her work. 

As I have lived my life and encountered hardship upon hardship, I remember this valuable lesson. We can accept our life, or we can fight it and have happiness elude us.

My smile has left me at times in my life, but it has always found its way back and I KNOW it is because of the strong men and women I have had in my life to teach me. 

My Aunts, the wonderful 6th grade teacher that helped me believe in myself and the wonderful friends that embrace me every day. 

One day I hope to be in a squeaky rocker, hearing the screen door slam shut but if not, the sounds live on in my memory and it makes me smile:-) 

I pray that you all have a wonderful start to your day. One with acceptance of the day and what comes. I am starting mine out with a heart smile that reaches my eyes:-)

Gloria Peacock Kimmel Oct 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mumps And Rag Ties In My Hair

My horror of a school picture happened in second grade. I was in Mrs. Hendricks class and I had learned to love school by this time, especially our library days. All of us would line up and walk silently down the hall to the library.
Our class was at the beginning of the hallway and we had to walk all the way down this long corridor past the Principle's office, past the 5th grade Mrs Hendricks, and out of the doors to a covered walkway to the Library and the High School. It seemed like we marched a mile back then. We were all tiny and we had to be quiet, which amazingly we were able to do. It was my very favorite thing to do but soon we were going to do my very least favorite thing to do, the school picture.
I had given my parents the required paperwork to let them know when our photographs were going to be taken and I guess my Mother stayed home just for this occasion. She called me into the kitchen where I saw strips of a white stiff cotton fabric beside the sink. I did not know what she planned but I did not like the looks of it. I saw scissors, strips, another bit of cloth off to the side and my mind was saying, "what now?"
The experience of the chickens was fresh in my mind but we were not outside with the animals so I felt relatively safe on that quarter, but still I did not know what Mama had in mind. She told me to get up on a chair, the one I washed dishes standing on, and said, " hold still." I really wasn't moving much because I had an overactive imagination for 7 and I did not know what those strips were going to be used for.
I climbed up on the chair and sat down. Mama picked up one of the strips and turned on the water. Oh lordy, now what.. lol. She put the strip of cloth underneath the water and got it good and wet and then wrung it out a bit. Then she took a bit of my hair and started rolling it up with the strip of fabric. Over and over until she got it up tight against the head and then she tied a knot in the fabric to hold it in place. She did that over and over til my head looked lik an old rag mattress and then she tied that big piece of cloth on my head like a handerchief to hold the water in tight, I guess or to keep me from pulling those awful things out.
She sent me to bed to sleep. I still remember that night, trying desperately to find a comfortable spot on my head to sleep. But I had those knots all over. I tried to pull enough of them to one side to have a place to lay my head but she had done a good job of tying my hair up so there was not much rest that night.
I have neglected to mention that I had mumps too, both sides swollen out so that it was noticeable, but Mama was not going to let me stay home and miss my picture. In the morning, she took down my hair which was curled and frizzed in all direction and tried to spritz it into behaving to go to school. She finally got it in manageable curls and put me in my dress for the day. I remember begging her to let me stay home. I was so sick but she was going to have her school picture or else. As Earline mentioned pictures were a rare commodity and she was going to have one of me that day.
I got on the bus with a raging fever and sickly looking eyes and went to school. I tried to smile when the photograher pointed the camera at me but I could only manage a sickly grimace. Mama got her picture that day and I went to school looking like a curly mess.
Years later I got the picture from the old black purse and I almost tore it completly up but I restrained and I still have it today. The one I am sharing today is a copy of the original which has two chunks torn out of it where I was going to end this memory, but refrained.
Today, I am glad that I have the photo and the reminder and my perspective has changed. Mama was trying to make me pretty and what she thought was pretty, was curly hair and mine was straight as a board.
This was not the last time that Mama tried to make my hair curly and when I was 9, I had to revisit these awful feelings again in the form of a having my beautiful long hair cut short and permed. I never quite got over that one either and the memory of that one stays in my book. I forgave Mama and Daddy for all that for, that is the beauty of time , the ability to forgive big things and let God take care of it.
Gloria Peacock Kimmel 10/28/2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cure For The Chicken Pox

We did not have our shots when we were little like they do now. You start your little ones getting their shots at age 6 weeks, but back then parents did not inoculate every child. We went through all those childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and chicken pox. They were miserable and itchy and in some cases embarrassing, but we made it through..
When I was 7 , I had the unfortunate experience of getting the Chicken Pox . In those days if someone had chicken pox you did not isolate the child, you took your kid over so they could have them and get it over with.
My Daddy was an interesting concoction of superstition, healer, and denier of all things medical, but on this day he told me he had a cure for my chicken pox.
He started walking to the many brooder houses we had for chickens in the side yard and I took off behind him. I was getting a little nervous because I spent more than enough time in the cages gathering and candling eggs that I had no desire to have anything to do with those chickens. You did not dare voice concerns or disobey daddy, so I followed him to the front of the largest cage.
It was an interesting experience for me, because I had an inquisitive mind and daddy said he had a cure for chicken pox. In my 7 year old mind I was already thinking, this could be big! lol
He said, "take your shoes off" and I started to squirm a little. I never went into the chicken coop without shoes or it would be a squishy, smelling mess for what I thought would be years to come, but I silently took off my shoes and looked to daddy for the next direction.
With some trepidation and my shoes removed, daddy opened the chicken coop door and motioned for me to go in. I immediately thought this is not going to be any fun and I entered the coop. There were two levels of long poles that the chickens roosted on and all around the outside walls were little bins filled with straw for them to lay eggs. I picked my way over to the side thinking we were going to be getting a few eggs and I might get something good to eat.
Then Daddy said "go over there Glorann" and he motioned underneath the tallest roosting pole. I walked over or slunk over there slowly and positioned myself under the first and tallest pole. This sent the chickens into flapping and clucking because I was invading their territory.
He then said, "now Glorann, I want you to walk underneath these roost 3 times." My eyes opened wide because I was old enough to know that the chicken poop was going to go in between my toes and I hesitated, which made him give me a look.
I gulped and started marching underneath the roost.. I could feel the poop squish in between my toes, and I could smell the chickens and hear the flapping. It took every thing a body could do to finish one turn but I kept walking and crawling til I got to the end. The roost were different heights so that when you made it to the end of the walk, you were crawling to get under the chickens.
When I ended one pass, I started another. The poop was now on the top of my feet, my hands and legs. My feet were sliding as I tried to complete another turn. The second pass completed, I started my third pass gingerly stepping to try to keep myself afloat and to finish this up as quickly as I could.
When I was done, daddy said. " now go wash yourself off with the hose" and off I went. He seemed confident that I would be cured so I went back into the house to goop myself up with calamine lotion. At night daddy tied socks on my hands so that I could not scratch myself to death, because the itch is like nothing you have felt unless you have had those dreaded chicken pox.
Daddy thought it would cure me and it did.
My Chicken Pox went away in 10-14 days and daddy just knew it was all due to walking and crawling underneath the chickens.
All I really got from it was a chicken poop smell that lasted 3 days, but daddy meant well.. lol
( I tried to take a clear picture of the chickens. I could not get a good one, but I tried)
Gloria Peacock Kimmel Oct 21 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

120 Acre Playground

 We did not have a lot of supervision as children, except from each other and this gave us a  LOT of time to play. Most of our play was outdoors, unlike today. I can't imagine a childhood with ear plugs in my ears and the internet my only friend.

Back then, we had mainly homemade toys such as these great stilts that Daddy made. You took a straight piece of 2x4 and whittled  the top for hand holders and left the body large then smaller again at the bottom to walk on. Daddy took two wedges and attached them half way up the 5 foot piece of pine and this was what we stood on. When we were very little, we would get up on the bumper of the car to get on them and off we would go. We could walk for miles on those stilts without falling and it was fun play and great exercise. Sometimes the boys would have us get up on their shoulders and then get on the stilts and play chicken!

 Each of us had two store bought toys from the 5 and dime in Jay. When we would go there it was better than Christmas. We went from wooden bin to  wooden bin seeing that array of toys trying to figure out what we wanted to buy. Every thing caught my eye but one of those times, I chose a blue top. It was a spiraling piece of wood painted blue with a nail coming out of the center of the bottom for spinning. And man would it spin. When daddy was at work, we would spin it in the house on the tile floor and it would spin and spin. Sometimes we wound the rope wrong and it popped off in another direction spiraling out of control, instead of spinning. It is a wonder we did not put our eyes out with those things. lol. I don't know if they make them like that anymore. If they do, I am certain that it comes with a warning label.

The other and my favorite, was a wooden Duncan Yo-yo.. Oh my, did I spend many happy hours with the string around my finger practicing my , "walk the dog", or "the baby Cradle" and I got pretty good at it. I could walk that yo-yo across the living room floor right into the kitchen, but I was never as good as Ernest was.  He could make it just spin in one position for what seemed like an eternity to me. He would whip his wrist downward in a snapping motion and the yo-yo would go down near the floor and just spin, then he would flick his wrist and his string would come back into the yo-yo in a singular motion and it never got all twisted up like mine often did.

We also played with a large wooden or plastic button tied onto a double string.  The button was in the middle and you took both ends and whirled them around and around. When it was twisted up tight, you gently pulled on the ends with your hands and wahlah, you had a twisty button that I spent literally hours playing with.  It was so much fun.

Sometimes Daddy brought home huge gophers that he had trapped. If you have never trapped a gopher, you find the hole that is their home, dig a hole in front of their entrance and put a bucket in it.  Then you cover it with grass and go away. The next day if the gopher was in their home, it was in your bucket and you had dinner.. Before he cleaned them, we got to ride them around the yard. Some of them were very large and we were tiny kids so we would climb up on top with one kid on the gopher and another kid on either side and have ourselves a ride. The gophers would lumber down the driveway and then the next kid would take a turn. I don't think we ever hurt the gopher but when I grew up, I realized that was probably not a good way to treat an animal.

It was such fun to jump off the swing with a towel around my neck trying to fly. And it took way longer than it should for me to realize that I was not going too. LOL.  

We called Doodle bugs and played when them when they answered our call. You found one of them in the sand by looking for a mound of sand that had a swirling whirlpool pattern to it.  Then you took your finger and went round and round the top of the sand house until the bug came to the top all the while chanting. "doodle bug, doodle bug, your house on fire. Gimme cup of water an' I'll put it out!"  Or   " doodle bug, doodle bug, come out of your hole".. Daddy called them potato bugs but I never found out what they are really called.

We played with old tires, rolling them around the yard and down the hill and when the boys tired of me following them, they would stack them around me so that I could not climb out or move much for fear of them falling over on me. They would usually come back and get me in a couple of hours. I was a kid that had a tire for a babysitter. I wonder if anyone else ever had that happen to them. lol. I am laughing now thinking of the boys doing that, but back then, I would get spitting mad at them for leaving me if they left me too long and I would call them to come get me. I still remember the smell of the tires around and counting them over and over til I was free. They would make short work at getting me out if they heard daddy's truck coming. lol.

In short,  we spent our days on a 120 acre playground. We rolled tires, played marbles, jumped rope, played hopscotch and swung on the swing daddy made us from a tree, shot firecrackers off underneath hubcaps, tied strings on June Bugs for our "Kite", caught fireflies in jars at night, played with our homemade button twirls,  tops, jacks, and those were happy hours for me. I hope that these memories brought back some of your own happy times playing outside.

(google Image)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Wrong Door

The Wrong Door...
I was a really quiet child, partly because Daddy believed in children being seen and not heard and he also believed that old adage that children did not speak, unless they are spoken too. The result of this was that I did not ask a lot of questions. I knew that if I did, I would be switched. I obeyed and followed whomever was leading.
The person that led me around was my playmate, Curtis Carnley. He and I were the same age. My older Sister Ruby and his older sister Betty were inseparable friends in Christ and in life. Whenever they were together, Curtis and I were together. Our days were spent making pine straw houses with built up walls and fine bits of wood gathered for us to sit upon and play with. We made our own game of pick up sticks because we did not have money for a game such as this at home. Ours was a pretty good substitute and we also had our marbles. The large shooter and the little ones to shoot out of the ring that we made in the sand.
Those idyllic days seemed to go on forever, but one day my older sister told me I would go to school. I was 6 and my world was going to change. I did not have any idea of what school meant. I know that my sister told me the story of coming home one day in tears, as she discovered that someone had pinned the back of her dress up while she was on the bus on the way to school. The kids made fun of her and giggled at her all day and her sweet spirit did not know why. She only knew that she hurt from their laughter. It was not until she came home that Mama saw the back of the dress pinned up and her slip showing. I don't think she ever knew the culprit of her embarrassment. 
She was my Mother for all intents and purposes as my Mother had left home when I was 18 months old. She came and went but it was Ruby that took care of me, ministered to my hurts, slept with me in the bed at night and kept me safe. She was the one I talked to. She was the one that baked for us and cleaned our clothes and became our Mama at age 15. She would read from her big old Black Bible and she had a spirit that I wanted to have. When the girls hurt her, I know that she prayed for them and when I married, she gave the Bible to me. It was underlined with all those passages that give us hope and make us know that we have a Father, loving us everyday.
Soon the day came for me to go to school. My sister ironed my dress and I put on my new Penny Loafers, ( boys shoes) that Daddy had bought me in Flomaton at the shoe store. I loved those brown penny loafers and cared not that they were boys or girls. I had outgrown my little white boots with the pom poms that I loved so much, but most of the time I was barefoot roaming the fields with feet so tough that when I would step on a nail or a burr of some sort, it barely broke the surface. When this happened, Daddy would pour Kerosene over it until it stopped bleeding and I would go on my way with a makeshift hankie tied over my battle wound, as I called them. I would go to my house and it would be transformed to a fort where I had sustained a battle. LOL. I was such a weird child, full of imagination and little else.
We rode the bus in together, Curtis and I and held hands on the bus garnering courage from each other. Both of us were afraid and worried about what school meant. Our sisters were in high school and only had enough time to deposit us in our class together, before they hurried off to their own lessons.
I knew that school involved reading and numbers but not much else. I already knew how to read some, having scoured the garbage piles that people left on our land and finding a treasure trove of "True Detective" magazines and " True Romance" neither at all suitable for one my age but at age 5, I kept them hidden in the houses that Curtis and I built. I slipped away to look at the ghastly pictures and started to read the words. Ruby had read to me so much that I knew many of the words, so it was natural for me to read early on.
I knew that school had reading and I was excited by the prospect of having a "real" book to read. I did not have any of those. The first time my class went to the library, I almost went into shock from all the rows of books that I could "check out" and take home to read. When the librarian discovered that I could read well, she let me check out more than the 1 or 2 book limit, so that I could read to my hearts content
I have wracked my brain and it is still hard for me to remember my first grade teachers name. I believe that it was Mrs Dobson, but I am not sure. There were so many children that I did not know and while I was excited by the prospect of knowing others, it was overwhelming to see so many kids of my own age in one place. I had never had a birthday party, like I learned that many of the other children had, and I had only played with my brothers and sisters and Curtis.
He was my "boyfriend" and I felt safe with him. We sat near each other in class and I tried to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. Soon recess time came and Curtis had to go to the bathroom and I did too. We went down the hall together and found a bathroom on the other side of the long hallway from our class and we went in together. It wasn't that we did this normally but we were afraid to leave each others side and I went right into the boys bathroom behind him, never thinking that I was walking in the wrong door. When I saw that there were other boys in the bathroom, I ran outside and back to my teachers room. I was in tears that I had gone into the bathroom where they had all laughed and some yelled at me to "Get out, you're in the boys bathroom, stupid". I was crying, not really realizing what I had done. We had only one privy at home and all of us kids used it, so it never occurred to me that there would be a bathroom for boys AND a bathroom for girls.
When I got back to the room, my teacher saw me in tears and had me come to her desk. I still remember kind of whispering that I had to use the bathroom and went to the one with Curtis and all the boys laughed and yelled at me. She put her arms around my shoulder and said " come with me and I will show you where you can go to the bathroom".
We went just to the left of the classroom and there was a bathroom labeled girls. I had not seen it when Curtis and I walked down the hallway to find a bathroom. We went inside and she told me that this is where little girls go to the bathroom. She was so kind to me. I will never forget that. When the recess ended and the boys had told the entire class what I had done, she shushed them when they made fun of me, if it was within earshot of her.
Of course this did not stop the teasing during recess, but it wasn't long before Donald Philyaw or Donald Polk, ( I can't remember which) ate a worm during recess and this shifted the teasing from me, to him. I felt bad for him but thankful too, that they had stopped worrying about me. Donald was trying to be one of them like I was, but it never happened for him and it never happened for me.......
Gloria Peacock Kimmel Oct 19, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Vanity Fair Days

Vanity Fair.....My Story inspired by Carole Magaha Barnes story of working for this company.

I got married at 17 to a  19 year old "Swabbie" stationed at Whiting Field. I still remember telling Daddy that I was going to get married. His face turned ashen as he  heard me say those words and he said to me, " you ain't going to marry no "ferigner"  are you?" He thought that anyone not born in Jay or Flomaton was a Foreigner.  I saw the hurt in his eyes as he told me that he would not sign for me to be married. I broke his heart when I said that to him " If you won't, Mama will." He had such hopes for me to be the first one in the family to go to college, but I saw an escape in marriage and I was going to take it. Daddy cried as he walked me all the way down the aisle and I started married life as a child.
I was not fully prepared to be a wife but I had been taking care of a home since I was 8, so it did not seem much different. Daddy let us live with him in my room for 6 months  as we planned our next step. This gave us a chance to save some money so that we could buy a mobile home.  We needed to  move to Milton to be closer to the Naval Station and my husbands work. I had been working for A&W drive in as a skating car hop but I needed something with reliable hours and a fixed amount of pay, so I applied to Vanity Fair. I was so young that I did not think I would be hired but I was. I started on the line that sewed the stripes at the top of the robe. It was fun work for me and soon I was one of the fastest sewers on the line. I could fill a bundle and send it on down the line so quickly that the next station would have to catch up, as I waited for them. There were rewards for sewing faster and I wanted to make the list of people that could do that.
We also received a large discount on some of the things in the Vanity Fair factory shop. There were seconds in there that would not make the final cut past inspection to be sold to the public. I loved going in there and thinking about getting myself a robe or a silky gown to sleep in, but we were a Military family and we did not have money for extras.
I learned to do all aspects of putting the robe together including the "point" which were really hard to do and I was proud of how well I could sew.  I worked my way up to inspector and then my husband was transferred to California and I had to leave the job.

I loved working there and for the first time, I had marriage type friends. Other young married couples working like we were for very little to give ourselves a good life. Marsha Cunningham and I became good friends. She was not from the area and seemed so "Worldly" compared to my life. We lived next door to each other at the trailer park. She was the first person to make me a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup that was made with milk. I had never tasted it before because we did not eat much food from a can and we did not make grilled cheese sandwiches. We did not eat many sandwiches. We ate greens and cornbread, gopher and dumplings, squirrel and beans. Sometimes we had poke salad if we could find it in the woods so the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich was new to me.
She sewed on the line with me and also learned to do most of the other jobs in the plant, like I did. She could sew the labels, do the points, make the bras and inspect the final product for distribution, like I could. We were so young but we were competent. I am sure that there are 17 or 18 years old that could have the responsibility we had today, but I don't see that when I go into stores today.  A lot of them can barely make change. I think of that kid that worked so hard at 17 to make a living and where that kind of work ethic took me and marvel at the many places that I have been and the many people I have seen.
I have been the minority, I have learned what a work ethic looks like in other countries, and sometimes when I look at the pair of scissors that I used back then, I am 17 again, sewing for Vanity Fair.