Pile of Stovewood
I was just looking at the “Old Rumford Cookbook” and I thought about grandma Smith. I’ve had some bad things to say about her in the past, but she had a lot of good qualities also in one of these was cooking. Ma Smith was a great cook and I ate a lot of of her cooking while I was growing up. If you think it’s hard to cook now. you should have lived during Ma Smith’s time. She cooked all of her life on a wood stove.
Every morning when she first got up she would build a roaring fire in the cookstove. Now the stove had a water tank on it and furnished hot water for shaving bathing etc. In those days Ma and Pa didn’t have a water heater.
She not only did the cooking but she went out and cut the stove wood and a lot of time she went and got the wood from the woods. She dearly love to go down in the woods and hunt for litard “rich light wood.” She used it to start the fire in her stove every morning. I can remember one time she was chopping wood and the peace of the wood flew up and hit her in the face and broke her glasses. Fortunately I it did not injure her eyes, but it sure did not knock her in the face.
I remember going out to Ma and Pa’s especially on Sunday for dinner and she would cook roasts and fresh vegetables and things like that. No wonder I was a chubby little boy.
After she got her stovewood up then she would prepare the food for cooking. Vegetables didn’t just come out of a package but had to be shelled, pealed, washed and cut depending upon what it was. Meat also had to be prepared and it was either canned or dried because refrigeration was not very common in those days. It greatly reduced the amount of work required when the rural folks got electricity.
Fishing at Panama City
Playing Under the House
The house I grew up in was an old country house that rested on pillars of brick. Because of being built this way, there was a space of between 3 to 4 feet between the floor and the ground. I remember the ground being exceedingly dry. It had doodlebugs in it (ant lions), and their cone-shaped dwellings gave the ground under the house and air of an alien landscape. I have been fascinated all my life with doodlebugs. Many times I have raised up too high and knocked a knot on my head as I have hit the sills under the house. I have heard the sound of “as a world time turns” and other programs that Mama listened to on the radio while she was ironing or doing housework. This place brought out many emotions and feelings. When you are young, every feeling is a unique expression in a fresh emotion. How exciting it is to discover the world with a young mind that is seeing and feeling things for the first time through new eyes of the spirit.
What was the big puzzle to me is why all these old soap operas had such dreary music. I would get in the mood that my world was coming to a quick end just by listening to it. Or I would at least think that my happiness could not remain long. As I was growing up I would often get the feeling of “lateness.” The best way I can describe it is that everything is that the world is passing you by, and you longer be able to stay the way you are. I guess the expression “life is passing you by” sort of explains that feeling.
One time dad was going fishing, and I got mad at him, for some reason. He dug his worms from the bait bed beside the old porch in the back of the house and then got ready to go.
“Kenny!” He called to me, But I didn’t answer. I just stayed they’re hidden under the house.
I still didn’t answer him. I just stay there and held my ground. Well, he finally gave up and got in the car and took off. When I heard that the car sound fading in the distance a feeling over remorse never felt before came over me. It was a feeling of utter loss. A great fishing trip that I could’ve go on was gone forever.
Oh! How terrible it was.
That’s the day I realized the feelings of “missed opportunities” that could enter one’s heart. It is a clear-cut case of losing out because the stubbornness of emotions.
As I matured in age, I began to realize that changes of life from my childhood to a different place in a sense began to fade. People that I thought were pillars and that would never crumble did. I never realized that I could get sick, die and then not be as invincible as I had always thought to be a given. This is a loss of security. This is growing up. Gradually, and in small doses are learned how to survive the large hurdles of life.
Fishing at Panama City
It’s Cold Now but It Was Back Then Also
It has been very cold lately, this mornig for example was 22 degrees on my thermometer.
This is not only time that it has been cold. I can remember times in my childhood (Back in the late 1940s) when It was very cold, even colder than this.
Even if it was cold like this, Mama would have have to go out and work she had to wash clothes because we still
had to have clothes to wear no matter what the temperature was.
I remember one time one mother was out washing on a cold morning, just as cold, if not colder than today. The wind was really whipping.
It would blow the fire first out of one side of the bottom of the washpot and then the other. I was drawing water for her to rinse the clother in.
She would let me get by with four buckets for each rinse tub. She had two of them. Luckily I happened to be just getting out there with
a bucket of water when a gust of that arctic wind blew a coal of fire out from under the pot and it landed on mama’s back and caught fire
to her old wool sweater. We wore wool sweaters then because they were cheap and also kept you quite warm. You didn’t want the wool
next to your skin, though, because it really would scratch and itch. I really didn’t like those wool sweaters but the whole family had
one to wear in the winter time. Well, getting back to mama. I hollered, “Your back’s afire!” So she came out of the sweater and we put it
out before she got burned. The only harm done was a hole burned in the sweater.
But that is still a memory that will not leave my mind and especially in this cold weather.
I wonder, Why don’t we see the ground spew up in cold weather like we used to?
Fishing at Panama City
Living in poverty
We hear a lot on used these days about poverty and how many people are in it. I hate to sound callous but I think there is way less poverty in this country than what is reported. I think we grew up living in poverty and didn’t even know it at all during the time. I was raised in an old house with lots of cracks in it and it was colder most of the time than the outside. We heated with a fireplace and I must say that fireplace put out little heat but took lots of work. So when people start talking about being in poverty today I can’t help but be a little skeptical. I know that there are some people who do live in deep poverty and it is a shame. The little house out in the country is where Ogburn and Ethel Smith lived and raised their family. There’s lots of pleasant memories associated with athe old housebut I guess we tend to remember the pleasant memories and forget the bad ones. I guess that’s a good thing because if we thought of a bad ones all the time we would certainly be depressed all the time.
What are some of the conveniences that we have today that were unheard of
back then. Well, for one thing, we didn’t have running water. we had to draw all of our water out of the well and then if we want hot water we had to heat it after drawing it out of the well. So there was a lot more work involved in getting water back then, both cold and hot than it is now. Just turning on the tab was unheard back then. Then there was the matter of staying warm in the winter time. We heated with a fireplace and that was not very efficient. We used to have the saying, “Burn on one side and freeze on the other.” We would back up to the fire and get our backside as hot as we could stand it and then turn around and get the front side as hot as we could stand it while the backside cooled off. I especially used to to do this before making a run for bed in my cold room on the northeast side of the house where the northwind made considerable inroads.
We also used an ice box when I was very little. The iceman would come once a week and use his tongs to put a big chunck of ice in the box. We kept our perishable food in the icebox. For large quantities of meat like when we killed hogs of cows we would store it in the “Coldstorage” downtown. This was usually run by the same people that ran the ice plant where the ice to go into the ice box was made.
Posted in Alabama in the 1940s, family history, growing up, Orlando Smith, South Alabama in the 1950s
Tagged family, grandpa, growing up, history, ogburn, Pa, poverty, Smith
Times When Pa Ogburn Demanded Absolute Quiet
picture of Prissy
There there were two occasions when, my dad (Pa Ogburn) demanded absolute quiet from us kids when we were playing around the room especially when it was bad weather that kept us in the house. You see, in the old house we had to use the rooms for multiple things because we didn’t have an excess of rooms. These two times were, when he was shaving, and when he was listening to the evening news. He said that any noise especially that made by us youngsters made him nervous caused him to cut himself while he was shaving. Well anyway, we got the blame most of the time, and sometimes it was rightly deserved. In any case he was prone to cut himself lots so we got lots of the blaming and a visit from the razor strap most of the time. There are many times when I got a razor strap on my rear end, deserved or not, and in most cases it made me grow up better. I think the most kids need something like this for their health and education these days. That’s what’s probably wrong with our youngsters today is that they haven’t had a razor strap applied to their backside (my speculation as an old curmudgeon). Dad shaved with the old-style Gillette blades, double edged blades, and I can still visualize him screwing that saver apart, putting a blade in and screwing it back together again. This was quite an operation. This would appear primitive by today’s standards but it was an improvement over the old straight edged razor. I think he would have probably cut himself to death by that time if he had continued to use his old straight edge razor especially after he had a family and kids and became so nervous.
He kept his shaving paraphernalia on the mantle over the old fireplace in his and Mom’s bedroom. To get his water would have to go out to the backpourch and dip it out of the water bucket and then take it to the stove or the fireplace and heat it. Most of the time mama would do that for him. If the water bucket was out then someone would have to draw it out of the well. After I became big enough it became my job to keep the water bucket filled. So you see, back in those days one could not just turn a tap and get hot water or any water for that matter. I think we tend to take this very much for granted these days. Well getting back to Dads shaving paraphernalia he had a mug with a brush in it with which he would lather up his face with a cake of shaving soap in the bottom of the mug. He stirred up a lather with the brush on the soap and then slathered it onto his face. If I close my eyes I can still hear the handle of that shaving brush knocking against that old porcelain cup. But for that day and time the Gillette double edge was the cutting edge of technology when it came to shaving.
One thing that still remains in my memory was the “razor strop” and my Dad’s ability to use it, not to sharpen razors but to apply discipline to my rear end. He kept his razor strap hanging just inside the closet in his bedroom where he could reach around the corner and lay his hands on it. He was certainly known to use it in short order with very little previous notice. The closet had no door just a hanging curtin in front of it and you just pushed it aside and got whatever you wanted out of the closet. Just inside the closet door will was were mom on her ragbag. The ragbag was a bag that was hanging up and she would cut up pieces of cloth out of clothes no longer usable and make rags out of them. They served the same purpose as bath cloths do today. One thing that stands out in my mind was “sear cloths” that she made with some of those rags. When we had a very bad cold or flu she would put Vic Salve on a square made from the rag and hang it around our neck. The vapour from the Vic’s salve would soak into our chest and help our cold. This is just part of the frugality that Mama Ethel practiced. Believe me, we did not have anything to waste and we did not throw away much.
The other time when Dad demanded absolute silence was when was when the news was on. We did not have round-the-clock news in those days just five minutes in the morning or evening with Gabriel Heatter was the news that we had at the time. But when it did come up on for those five minutes Monday want to hear every word of it. He did want to be listening to noise that kids would be making. Gabriel Heatter had a great sounding voice and it was very sombre, sounded like he was speaking as the voice of God to us kids. News casts of these days have very little deep content which made them the very antithesis of news back then. Just about everyone here in the South especially the rural part always listend to Gabriel heater discussed what he said they waited to listen to them the next time. He gave it is the worst disasters in various other things but he had one thing that he always said at the beginning of his newscast, “there is good news tonight.” That is unless there was bad news and then he could just substitute a good for a bad.
And that’s a little bit about Pa Ogburn.
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