Sunday, October 16, 2016

George Singleton recalls autumn memories from the Great Depression

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “A look back at yesterday’s autumns” was originally published in the Oct. 9, 1997 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

As I have stated many times in my writings, I think the youth of our country has missed a lot by not growing up during the closing days of the Great Depression. A form of togetherness among the country families was something that has long since disappeared from the scene. There was a time when the community families would come together and perform tasks for those older members of the community, or if there were sickness in a family, all the community would come together and do whatever work necessary to keep their farms going. Since autumn is my favorite time of the year, I would like to back step in time and recall some of those good times that I remember as a child and growing up in the country.

I can see them now, the mule-drawn wagons loaded with cotton on their way to the cotton gin. This trip to the gin would begin before the crack of dawn. The wagons had been loaded the day before and just before the early dawn streaked the eastern skies. The mules were harnessed and hooked to the ready wagons. A small boy of five was going to be allowed to make the trip to the gin this day so he had already nestled in the fluffy load of cotton for the trip to the gin. This young boy would sleep almost all the way to the cotton gin located in the small town of Sweet Water. As the wagon approached the small town, an older brother or father would awaken the sleeping youngster so that he wouldn’t miss anything as the wagon entered town.

Cotton wagons rolling,
Grandpas strolling,
Hickory nuts falling,
Fox squirrels calling,
Wild geese flying,
Haystacks drying,
Golden leaves flaring,
Bed covers airing,
Autumn has arrived.

Already the loaded wagons from various parts of the farm area would be lined up in place for their time to gin. The line of wagons would slowly move toward the gin as one by one pulled under the shed where a long, large suction pipe was swung over and the cotton removed from the wagon. Many times, the wagons that had arrived late would wait in line for several hours, even into the late hours of the evening. A wide-eyed boy would listen to the tall tales of the wagon drivers and sit spellbound for hours as the stories broke forth in the gathering of farmers.

One of the highlights of the day’s trip was at lunch time. To be caught in line at the gin at lunch time was something to look forward to. A father or older brother would remove a nickel from his pocket and this small boy would race down the street to Lewis Brothers Store. Here, he would purchase a stick of peppermint candy that had peanut butter mixed inside. This nickel stick of candy would be about 10 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. There was nothing in the whole world that tasted better to this country boy of five than this candy.

The height of peace and contentment would be the return trip home during the late hours of the evening while lying on the cotton seeds or the heavy bagging folded up in the wagon bed. Life just couldn’t get much better than this as a small boy lay there, licking his candy stick of peppermint and peanut butter. Usually, the trips to the cotton gin was made around the middle of the week and sometimes on Saturday. The trips on Saturday were usually avoided, due to the many wagons that were always there. And, too, most times there would be a community cookout on Saturday afternoons. And surely no one in their right minds wanted to miss this get-together.

As the farming community gathered by the large overflowing well for the Saturday meal and time of fellowship, plans were beginning to formulate for a wood-cutting and community corn-gathering for a less fortunate family down the road aways. A time was agreed on as to when the corn-pulling would take place. The wood-cutting and splitting could wait until a later date due to the weather; it would be awhile yet before the fireplace would be needed to warm this country home.

This community get-together was also looked forward to by this five-year-old country boy. He couldn’t wait for those mouth-watering meals of potato and pumpkin pies, not to mention all that pecan candy and sweet cakes, that always showed up at these corn-pullings and wood-cuttings. The wonderful memories of those golden days of autumn will forever dwell in the mind of this country boy for always.

Ripe pumpkins glistening,
Coffee pots whistling,
Night stars brightening,
Bullfrogs quietening,
Golden corn rustling,
Corn harvesters hustling,
Cornstalks tilting,
Autumn has arrived.

 (Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

No comments:

Post a Comment