Sunday, May 15, 2011

Life Was Good, Mrs. R.A. Lowery Sr., Iredell County

The following is an excerpt from an essay by Mrs. R. A. Lowery Sr., Iredell County, which was published in I Remember When: Reminiscences of Fifty Years Ago, published by the North Carolina Extension Homemakers Association Inc. in 1978.

I remember when we moved here to “old home place” in late 1900. Things were far different than today.
We had kerosene lamps and homemade candles for light. My grandparents lived with us and Granny had her own candle molds. She used bee’s wax or tallow and made them perfectly.
My Mother did the cooking and most of the housework, so Granny could do the carding of cotton or wool, spin the thread on her big spinning wheel, weave cloth for bedspreads (counterpanes), then add the wide knitted lace to the border, and complete the coverlet with hand-tied fringe. Granny knitted my stockings and when I wore a hole in the knee she could take her needles and repair it perfectly. She ironed all the clothing with old flat irons.
Granny knew all herbs and spices as well as wild greens (Salet) such as lambs quarter and poke. She made cough medicine from leaves of mullen. This was stewed and liquid was sweetened with honey or sugar, if it was available.
Grandpa was a leather tooler and made horse collars for large plantations. He also made shoes and always mended the worn out soles with new leather bought in big squares. The old iron last is now in possession of the fourth generation.
My parents were working hard to pay for the farm. Pa loved the farming part but also was in the sawmilling business as well as lumber planing, drying and hauling to market. With this was also a cotton gin and grist mill, where they ground corn for meal or for feed for the animals. Four o’clock a.m. was the time to get up, feed the stock such as horses, mules, oxen, hogs, etc. This was done while Mother cooked the ham, biscuits, mush and eggs to go with the coffee, butter and jelly or preserves.
After breakfast it was back to the work--the men to mill or field, Mother dishwashing with lye soap, then bedmaking and sweeping the floors with a homemade broom often made of sedge gathered from fields that were not worked for a year or so. I loved to make the brooms. They were easy to use on the bare floor. We had no rugs for many years.
We never knew when some of the kinfolk might be coming but we were always prepared with plenty of flour or meal for bread, hams, etc. We also had chickens and eggs plus wild meat such as rabbit, squirrel, opossum and sometimes a mud turtle. I did not care for some of that so I survived on vegetables, buttered bread and molasses or honey. Sometimes we had pear preserves or blackberry jam.
We were pestered with flies until 1911, when we had a siege of typhoid. My Pa then screened the dining and kitchen room and the big L-shaped back porch. We had no pesticides then so we had to use mosquito netting to keep them off the beds at night.
In the spring we washed the bed ticks and filled them with fresh straw for mattresses. To me nothing was better than a freshly filled bed tick stuffed well and evenly and a quilt on top for cover.
We sat on porches to keep cool. We carried fans to church to keep cool. We wore bonnets to keep fair skin. We used a dam in the branch to bathe in summer.
We had no electricity, no telephone until about 1910 and that was an eight party line. We used batteries to operate the phones and if you lived far out you could not get Central very well, so you’d ring someone nearer to town and ask them to ring for you. I did this many, many times.
We only went to town shopping three or four times a year. We bought shoes, material for clothes, thread, buttons, lace and ribbon. We gradually started buying “bought” stockings, and sox and also long johns under clothing. Times were hard but we did not know it so it did not hurt us.
Copyright: North Carolina Extension Homemakers Association Inc.

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