The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Reminiscence Of Bygone Days

By Elma S. Menetre © 1986

Issue: March, 1986

In those days of the early nineteen hundreds, one dollar was the customary wage for a day's work. The dollar at that time bought a lot of what one needed. I was born and raised on a farm, so we did grow almost everything we eat.

Most women made their own dresses and undergarments. Dry goods were sold by the bolt. Gingham was the common dress goods in those days. Most women of this era of time were good cooks and always had a tasty savory meal ready at meal time every day of the year. Seems they took plenty of time to cook and no matter what kind of dish, be it stew, pastry cake or pie, it was delicious.

Light bread was baked in an old kitchen range oven. The range did burn wood, but one could turn the grates over and then burn coal. This bread had a lot of nourishment. It was solid in content, not spongy. My mother baked it about once each week. The old kitchen range stove had a warm oven to keep victuals warm. It also had a reservoir to keep water warm for many purposes around the kitchen. Stoves of this type are still in use in many households today. You can still buy one, but they sell at a very high price.

Chickens, we always had quite a flock of them, as many as 200 hens. We raised guineas chiefly to frighten away the coyotes by the loud noise made by their cackle. Geese and ducks were raised, mostly to roast. A goose is large and can make a good Thanksgiving dinner for several adult individuals.

Mother washed on an old wash board with soap that was homemade. It was a good soap and really did clean the dirt and grime and left the clothes good and clean. Irons were used in those days to smooth out the wrinkles of the various garments.

Us kids wore mittens. Girls wore muffs to put their hands in to keep from getting cold. They were hung around the neck, with the muff resting at the midriff.

I wore knee pants when I was a kid of a boy. Us kids then wore black socks held up by garters. Also, button shoes of which we used a shoe buttoner to button or unbutton the shoes.

Girls wore puffed up bloomers in those days. Corduroy caps were common in those bygone days of long ago. Stocking caps were commonplace.

We had two stoves that did consume wood - a sheet iron heater which got hot very quick and cold quick and the kitchen range cook stove. It was quite handy with multiple uses. Usually on a sunny day is winter we worked very hard to get wood cut up for we knew a cold day was not far behind.

We did not have a radio in those days, but we did a lot of reading of various books and magazines. Father had an 8 volume standard reference work encyclopedia. I expended many hours each day in the perusal of those volumes. My father was an avid reader and an elegant pensman. The tutors of this early day stressed the art of handwriting to their pupils.

My father's first gun was a muzzle loader. Later he obtained a breach loader. Game of all kinds were plentiful and there was always plenty of meat on the table.

Neighbors in those days borrowed several items such as sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and several other staples, but they always returned them. They never failed. Their word was as good as gold. They were honest, trustworthy, dependable and reliable. They were genuine, fair and square in all their dealings.

These people were devoted and dedicated to their religion. We used to go to Sunday School in an old school house. In the summer we had revivals, brush arbor meetings, and evangelistic meetings which lasted two to three weeks - a friendly get together for the good of the community. The alter call was made nightly and many got saved.

Yes, I went to Sunday School every Sunday as a boy. We mixed and mingled with the neighbors with dinner on the grounds, reciprocating together in a friendly spirit of fellowship which clearly depicted love and kindness towards one another. If one neighbor did not have a stalk cutter, rake or harrow, he did borrow it from his neighbor if he had one.

As a boy I remember Father and Mother would go to a neighbor's house to chat, to talk about things in general. Sometimes on Saturday evenings we had ice cream and cake and would invite the neighbors over.

"Butter and Egg" day was on Saturday and we usually went to town on that day. We usually stood on street corners to talk about crops after the trading was done. We staked our horses and wagon in the wagon yard where we fed and watered them. Women would gather with other women and talk of raising a garden or chick raising or maybe dress making.

Those good old days are gone forever, but I am pleased that I lived in those days when things were genuine and not artificial. Yes, I lived when life was pure and simple. A slow pace then, but we got along with what we had and were more contented and satisfied than nowadays.