Written by F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star, Nov. 6, 1945
One of the many interesting events in North Carolina rural life during this month is the fall meeting of the Home Demonstration Club Federation of almost every county. The women called the occasion “Achievement Day” and representatives of each club in every county are on hand to make reports of the work done during the past years. Just the other day, I attended such a meeting at a Jacksonville in Onslow County. The group gathered in the auditorium of the USO building with Mrs. L.N. Sanders, Federation president, as presiding officer. There was a roll call by clubs, the usual collect, songs, devotional, and other preliminary features, after which women from the various clubs told of the results secured with gardens, scrap drives, clothing, food conservation and the other vital projects which are being conducted by the home demonstration forces in this time of war emergency. The reports, however, were not made in the usual tiresome fashion.
One of the women went to the piano and then the reporters began to come up in groups of two or three. A tune was sounded and the women would tell in song just what had happened in garden, pantry, sewing room, poultry yard and the like. They told how many cans of vegetables and fruits had been conserved in the county; how they had helped in the Red Cross drives and with the United War Fund; how they had made old clothes do after careful renovation; how their poultry yards had produced eggs and broilers in abundance and had been aided through their collections of scrap materials and waste fats. It was a kind of Thanksgiving service told in folk song and in the simple words of those who live close to the soil.
As each story was told, the reporters in that particular group added a placard to a figure that had been forming in the background and when the entire report had been made and all the placards put in place, a giant “V” for victory resulted. The “V” was based on the work of the women in their home demonstration clubs during the year and the finale was a chorus in which all joined to tell the story of their joint struggles on the farm in 1944. It was an interesting performance and while the voices may not have been equal to some trained singer nor the word arrangement comparable to classic poetry, the observer gained a clear idea of what had been done and the difficulties which had been overcome.
Let’s not forget that there are difficulties in farming Onslow County these days. The war has changed the county from a distinctly rural section into a place where no houses are available and no labor had to be had at any price. Jacksonville is no longer recognized as the quiet village of former days. There are housing projects there now, new miles of paved streets, a new and modern hospital, and the stores can hardly keep food and merchandise upon their shelves. Just eastward is Camp Lejeune, the modern Marine training base, stretching across the low marsh lands to the Atlantic Ocean and in itself one of the most efficient and most beautiful of all such posts in the nation. New River traverses the entire county from north to south and along the bends of this old river, the Navy has built this remarkable plant. It is here that the Marines have trained for their work in the Southwest Pacific. Their commanders found in Onslow the swamps, the islands, and the water of sound and ocean, and other amphibious conditions suitable for preparing their men for the tasks which they are doing so well.
Hugh Overstreet, one of the veteran farm agents of the Extension Service, says that it is almost impossible to get tenants for the larger farming units in Onslow. Those without land of their own find the wages at Camp Lejeune and, formerly at nearby Camp Davis, too attractive.
It was thought that when the two camps had been built, local labor conditions would improve but, right now, “there seems to be no end in sight,” Overstreet says. On the smaller farms, however, the owners and their families have remained on the job in a commendable way. Mr. Overstreet held meetings in each community early last spring and the neighborhood leaders made a careful study of the local situation. Farm owners discussed the outlook for labor and the crops which could be planted and harvested without loss. These plans were followed throughout the year and it was not unusual to find a farmer working with four or five of his neighbors in exchange for the help which they, in turn, gave him. Farm machinery and equipment also were exchanged, and this made it possible for the women to sing their songs of thanksgiving at the Achievement Day exercises last week.
Onslow poultry bids fair to become as famous as Onslow hams due to the great increase in poultry growing. The production of broilers and hens increased by one-third in 1943 and jumped again this year with the farmers brooding their chicks in outbuildings, tobacco barns, old tenant houses, as well as in modern brooder houses. There was a problem in obtaining the right kind of feed and many were able to get only a week’s supply at a time. Even so the growers produced more eggs, broilers and fryers than ever before and there was a ready and eager market for all that could be grown.
Onslow is one of the old counties in the state formed from Bath in 1734. It covers an area of some 86,000 acres and is one of the most heavily timbered areas in the South. Now it is becoming necessary for the landowners to think about conserving their timber as wartime needs have dug heavily into the standing reserves. The soil is fertile ad the people know how to farm although they seem somewhat bewildered at what has happened to the good old life as they knew it.