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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dewey School Reunion a Huge Success



Stories were a flyin' at the Dewey School Reunion as alumni gathered together for an afternoon of renewing old acquaintenances.  The oldest person attending being 91 years of ager and the youngest 67.


The earliest school anyone can recollect was built on the old Blaine Cole Farm in Doe Valley.  The students from Swift Hollow had to walk through a place called The Bee Cove - a distance of two to three miles.  Food for the whole family was carried  to school in an old lard bucket.   Lunch usually consisted of a ham biscuit or a piece of cornbread  spread with molasses.  The area was becoming more popular and a decision was made to build a new school in the Dewey Community.  It was named for the Community and was called the Dewey School.  The first Dewey School was up Swift Hollow and sat up on the bank about a quarter mile up the hollow from the main road (Highway 67).  It was used for years until one day the teacher made a couple of the boys mad.  They sneaked back to the school in the middle of the night and stuck some paper into a knothole in one of the boards and set it afire burning down the school.   The rest of that school year the Dewey School students had to walk to the Doe Valley School.  A new two room school was built and located at the corner of Highway 67 and Swift Hollow Road where the present day Dewey Christian Church stands.  As near as any one an remember it was built in 1935 or 1936 and continued in operation until 1952 when Doe School was built .  Several schools were consolidated to the new Doe School, Butler, Doeville, Doe Valley and Dewey.

The new school consisted of two rooms.  Both rooms were actually the same size but were known as the Big Room and the Little Room for the "big kids" and the "little kids".  There were four grades in each room.  Some grades had five or six students while others had two or three.  Heavy wooden doors separated the two rooms.  When there was something special going on the doors were pushed back into one big room.

Each room had its own small room we called a cloak room where we hung our coats and boots.  In the front there was also a kitchen where the school cooks, Ms. Winnie and Ms. Hazel  prepared our lunch.  There was no running water at the school so water had to be carried from the creek or from the well up on the main road.  A bucket full of water and a dipper sat on a small table and we all drank out of the same dipper. 

The potbellied stove sat in the little room near the door.  When it was cold the teacher would gather the class full of students around the stove to do their lessons.  One day one of the boys threw a handful of firecrackers into the stove.  Pandemonium reigned until they all exploded and everything was settled back down.

There was a belfry with a big old bell which was rang by the principal when it was time to take up, recess, lunch and when school was over for the day.  I remember asking him once if I could ring the bell.  He told me if I did that I would be sucked up into the belfry and never come down.

There were no bathrooms.   There was an outhouse with a dirt floor on each side of the school - one for the boys and one for the girls.  It worked out just fine until one day we had a tornado touch down and destroyed the boys outhouse.  After that we had one common outhouse. 

At the end of the day the boys would go to the coal shed to bring in the coal, wood, and kindling for the next day.  Others would shake the erasers against the side of the coal shed.  We girls had to sweep the oily dirty floor. 

After sharing a meal, and doing some visiting class members shared their recollections of their time at Dewey School.

There were lots of "outhouse stories"  One class member remembered learning to smoke in the outhouse.  She related one of the older boys had a job working at Charlie's Grill.  He always had a little money and was able to buy tobacco and papers for "roll your own"  cigarettes.  He kept them in his coat pocket.  Some of the girls wanted to learn to smoke and would ask for permission to go to the outdoor toilet.  They would go to the cloakroom and wear his coat to the toilet thus giving them a chance to practice their smoking.  One lady told of the big turkey gobbler that lived close to the school.  That big ol' gobbler would chase her every time she went to the outhouse. 

Another classmate stated school lunches in those days only cost 15 cents but he didn't have lunch money so he would run the quarter of mile or so to his Granny's because he knew she would have a big bowl of soupbeans and cornbread on the table.  He would hurry and eat and run all the way back to school so he would have time to play ball before the lunch hour was over.

Most of the students walked to school, one lady said, "we  lived back up in the holler-way back up in there and there wasn't another soul in that holler".   When it would snow someone would come with an old truck and break the snow so they would be able to walk out to school.  Another classmate remembered they would see her and her brothers coming down the road and invite them in to warm up by the stove before they continued their journey to school.  In the afternoons they would walk back the same way stopping to warm themselves before they walked on home. 

One fellow told of walking to school every day and it was "uphill both ways".   Finally, one of the men in the community was able to get hold of an old panel truck that had benches along each side and the back.  The man driving the "bus"  would go up and down  each holler, Stout Holler, Shupetown, Pleasant Valley, Harbin Hill, and along the highway picking up kids.  Once in awhile some of the boys would get in a fight on the bus and the driver would stop and make them get off the bus and "fight it out right there"  in the middle of the road.  When they had settled their differences they would get back on the bus and continue on their way.  Children today don't know how lucky they are to have a bus come right to their door and take them to school.

Another classmate remembered when she was six she should have started school .  She said her dad would whip her and make her go.  She would cry all the way to school.  The little neighbor boy wasn't old enough to start yet and she didn't want to go to school without him.  After about three weeks of her crying every day she got to stay at home and the next year her and the neighbor boy went to school together.  They actually went all twelve years together, four at Dewey, four at Doe School and four at JCHS.

Another fellow told of being pushed into the icy cold creek in the middle of winter and how he had to sit all day with his wet britches on.  He said he could have walked home to get a dry pair but it wouldn't have mattered he would have had to wear them anyway since he only owned one pair of britches. 

Fond memories of the teachers were remembered, among  them John A.. Shoun, R. Clyde Wilson, Ms. Hazel Wilson, Mrs. Rena Shoun, Madge Nave, who taught there in the forties, Haggai Miller (pronounced Hagy-I) and others.

Our cook Ms. Winnie Wilson, was remembered for her scrumptious peanut butter cookies and her big bowls of soup on Friday.  Someone else remembered her carrying water to cook with and how she fed us like kings.  One of the girls didn't like to drink milk so Ms. Winnie would give her chocolate milk to drink. 

Someone told of how  teacher, Haggai Miller used to have a saying he always said,   "Idleness always causes trouble", which still stands true today.  Another told of how Haggai used to send him to get a willow switch  to whip him with.  He came back with a small switch so Haggai sent his good friend out to get a switch. The friend came back with a willow switch about six feet long.  He said by the time the teacher got through whipping him it was just a little stick. 

Memories of Mrs. Rena Shoun were told and how she spoiled us.  One man related when we had to move from the two room school to the big consolidated Doe School upon the hill he was in the third grade.  He said he thought he had quit school and gone straight to the penitentiary.  “The teacher paddled me  every day”, he said.  “I thought she was the meanest teacher that ever walked the face of the earth”.  It was an adjustment for all of us going from the small school to the new Doe School.  It was not only was a much bigger school,  there was a room for every grade and lots of kids we had never seen before.  We had drinking fountains and toilets that flushed.  There were showers in the bathrooms, most of us had never seen a shower before.  There was no bell to ring and no erasers to dust and no more going to the outhouse.

At the end of the reunion many of the members sported new Tee shirts designed by classmate Charles Winstead of Griffin Georgia. 
It was a spectacular fall day, with lots of food, laughs, fun and fellowship.  The memories of that little two room school will forever be etched in our minds.

The next reunion will be held in October 2014. 

That's it for today.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gathering Wood for the Winter

I have always felt that I was lucky to have grown up in the fifties.  In some ways we were a lot luckier than the kids of today.  We lived out on the farm about three miles from town without running water and indoor plumbing.  We had no central air conditioning or heating system.  Electricity was considered a luxury and was only used when necessary.   Most of our food was grown on the farm.  Tobacco was the big cash crop.  We kids were expected to help out on the farm doing all kinds of chores gathering eggs, pulling weeds to feed the hogs, and helping to feed and milk the cow.  
Since wood was our only heat source gathering enough wood to keep warm in the winter was a priority in the fall.  Winter called for a constant demand for fire wood and getting the long poles of wood from the mountains was  hard work.    In the early 1900's  the chestnut trees on the east coast of the United States  had suffered from what was called the Chestnut Blight.  It was a fungus that was spread through the air, raindrops and animals.  It  spread on the bark of the tree eventually killing the trees.  The dead chestnut trees made good firewood to use in the fireplace or the "Old Buckeye" stove that sat in the front room.    In the thirties and forties  you could get a harvesting permit from the government to use the dead and downed chestnut trees for firewood. Using the permit you were not allowed to cut anything that was green except for maybe a small sapling to use as a springpole.   In the fall my granddad would hitch up the horses to the wagon and go into the mountains to gather enough wood to last for the winter.  It would take several loads of wood to do the winter.   About once a month he would take the wagon and collect smaller wood to use in the cookstove.   After the wood was brought to the house and piled up he used a crosscut saw or a buck saw to saw it into smaller pieces.  By the early fifties most of the dead chestnut trees had been harvested and sawmills offered  truck loads of ends and pieces of slab wood .  That was a much easier way of gathering wood but it still had to be split and ricked and handled more than once.    A truck load of slabwood cost around  $7.00 and a ton of coal cost around $10.
One of our chores was to gather in enough  wood and coal to keep us warm at night and also to burn in the wood cookstove. Every afternoon after school  we would change into our old clothes and head to the woodshed.  We had an old wagon and we would fill the wagon full and pull it up to the kitchen door and transfer the wood  and kindling to the woodbox that set by the cookstove.  Again we would fill the wagon with larger pieces for the heating stove in the front room and carry in  two buckets of coal. That was enough to last until the next day when we would repeat the process.     Sometimes we tried to get away with bringing in only a small amount of wood.  It never worked.  We would be sent back to the woodshed for another armload.  
The heating stove in the front room kept that room warm but the bedrooms were always cold.  At night we would take the flat irons and set them on the stove to get them good and hot.  We would then wrap them in an old towel and put them at the bottom of the bed to keep our feet warm.  The irons would sometimes stay warm all night.  It worked great but you had to make sure the iron was covered good so you didn't burn your toes. 
Thinking about those cold bedrooms on a winter's night is just a memory - now if my feet get cold at night I just turn up the electric blanket.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Winter's Not Over 'til it's Over

In the springtime here in the northeastern corner of Tennessee we see a lot of different changes in the weather. Somedays it is warm and the ground begins to thaw, then it might be so hot you think summer is upon us. The next few days we might get a cold snap with rain, snow, sleet and lots of wind. The oldtimers predicted the changing of spring by the blooming trees and the different types of winters as they called them.

After the January thaw and the groundhog has seen his shadow the ground begins to thaw a little the winters begin.
Beginning with the first few warm days as the ground begin to thaw the serviceberry (Sarvisberry) trees would be the first to bloom. This would be called Sarvis Winter and to the old timers, meant the return of the circuit riding preacher. After the long long winter the ground would be thawed enough to have funerals and bury the dead. The snow white blooms of the serviceberry trees would be used to honor the dead at the "church sarvices" Thus the name Sarvis Winter.

If there was a cold snap when the Locust trees were in bloom it would be called Locust Winter. It usually isn't very long or cold.

For example it could be snowing in the morning and record breaking temperatures by afternoon.

The next tree to bloom was the redbud. If the weather turns cold while the redbuds are in bloom it is called Redbud Winter.Only the hardiest crops would be planted before this cold spell.
Dogwood Winter comes after a few days of warm weather and brings several days of cold, weather and the possibility of a killing frost. Planting the tender crops should wait until after the Dogwood has bloomed. Oldtimers sometimes used the blooming of the Dogwood as a sign to plant their corn.

Blackberry Winter is probably the most widely know of the winters. The oldtimers knew that the blackberry canes needed a cold snap to set the buds, so the cold snap during the blackberry blooming was called Blackberry Winter. Blackberry Winter is normally not as harsh as some of the other winters. The soil is warmer and drier now so tender crops could be planted without much danger of being frostbitten.

Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter is the winter only the oldtimers heard about. That was back in the day when they wore homespun clothing and it was when you could shed your "long johns" for cooler, lighter clothing.

Whiporwill Winter is the last little cold snap we get after the Whipporwill has migrated north from Mexico. Its that last surge of arctic air. It's not as cold and doesn't last long or do much as much damage as some of the other winters.

After a long hard winter and spring with all the cold snaps summer can't be that far away---or can it?

That's it for today!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shot of the Day

Shot Of The Day

Since the beginning of the year I have tried to make good use of my camera by taking the "shot of the day".  Sometimes it is scenery or sometimes something I have done but it will be fun to look back at all the given photos and remember where I have been. Each photo will have its own story to tell.  Here are a few Shots of the day this year.

And today's shot

That's it for today!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring has Sprung ---Finally!!!

It was 75 degrees this afternoon
and definitely a flip flop kinda day.
Once again my beans have prevailed against Puxatawney Phil
I will be waiting for the first of August to start counting, however, I promise not
to use a five gallon bucket this time.

Until next time...........
That's it for today!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Get Your Breakfast While It's Hot

Well, I have gotten some comments lately because I haven't written any stories on my blog like I used to....all I can say is once you are out of the habit sometimes it is hard to get going again.

It wasn't hard to think of something to write about when I woke up this morning and the outside temperature was 12 degrees, fresh snow on the ground and icicles hanging off every eave of the house. Inside the house it was 72 degrees and if I wanted it warmer all I had to do was turn up the thermostat a notch or two. On to breakfast - I stick a precooked sausage link in the microwave, throw a slice of bread in the toaster open the refrigerator, grab the juice and pour the eggbeaters in a skillet - five minutes flat I have a hot breakfast.

It wasn't like that in the days when I was growing up....Let me pour a cup of coffee and tell you all about it....oh, the coffee was done before I got up - I set the timer last night.

My dad always made sure we had enough wood inside to build a big roaring fire and for my mother to cook breakfast the next morning. His job was to cut it and we kids had to carry it in the house. There were two wood boxes and they had to be full along with a bucket of coal. My dad was always the first one up at our house. The first thing he would do was start a fire in the old Buckeye stove that sat in the living room, then he would take his shavings and kindling to the kitchen to start the fire in the cookstove. Shavings were the small sticks of wood he had cut and then shaved down lengthwise of the wood so the fire would catch easier. As soon as the fire was started he would awake my mother and she would get up and dress, yell at all of us to get up and she would go immediately to the kitchen to start preparing breakfast. Dragging out the old bread pan which was approximately 12 inches wide and 18 inches long and would hold about 18-20 biscuits. She would grease it up and set it on the back of the stove, then take the bread bowl (she had a certain bowl she used from day to day to make her biscuits) dump the flour and the lard in the bowl and a little buttermilk along with some baking powder, soda and salt. She never measured ingredients she did it by feel.

When she had stirred her dough to the right consistency she would dump it on the dough board and knead it and cut out the biscuits placing them on the pan in straight rows almost but not quite touching. While the biscuits were baking she would be frying up whatever meat she had, some side meat or bacon, cooking a pan of apples she had peeled the night before, making a pan of gravy, and frying a skillet or two of eggs. She knew how we each liked our eggs and that's how she cooked them . My dad liked his real runny, I liked mine over hard with the yolks broken, my mom liked hers not quite so runny, my brother would have his scrambled. How she ever got all those eggs in the same skillet cooked to order I will never know. I didn't gain that knack of knowledge from her.

When the eggs were done and on the same plate she would pull the biscuits out of the oven and slather a few of them with butter to eat with our apples. By this time we had better be up and have our faces washed and be ready to sit down to eat. Along with all the food I have mentioned above there would be two or three different kinds of jelly, jam and apple butter on the table. It was quite a spread. With eight hungry mouths to feed it took a lot of food.

Nobody touched the plate of biscuits until my father had taken his and passed the plate to my mother. . My dad was very strict about the table manners, no laughing, no joking, and there was no reaching across the table either. I remember one time my brother reached across the table for a biscuit, my dad slapped his hand, realized what he had done and jumped up from the table, ran out the door, with my mother right behind him with a butcher knife. They settled their differences out in the yard and we just kept on eating.

I did not like getting up out of the warm bed on those cold mornings. Sometimes the single pane windows would be iced over and there would be snow around them and if it was a blowing snow there might be snow across the covers on your bed.There was no warm carpet to slide your feet across and you can imagine how cold your feet got running across the linoleum. By the time we were up the Ol' Buckeye stove was heating up the living room so we would take our clothes in by the fire to dress. We always sat our shoes and socks by the stove so they would be warm in the morning. In those days it seemed like you were always cold on one side or the other.

It was the best of times and the worst of times but together we made it through and my parents made sure we were loved, warm, clean and never hungry. It may be cold outside but I have love and warm memories to last a lifetime and that's it for a cold snowy January day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Buzzards and Polecats

My first try at writing in 10--

10 minutes to write - Prompt word - Buzzard

Buzzards and Polecats

I was driving down the road just at dusk when out of the weeds at the side of the road marched mama polecat (skunk) followed by her six little ones. Swerving to miss them, the left front tire caught mama by the tail and before i knew it I had run over the mama and three of her babies..the other three managed to make it to safety and quickly scampered down the bank. I stopped the car and as I looked in the rearview mirror what a sight in the middle of the road! Black and white fur everywhere! I kept waiting for the smell but there was none. Oh well, I thought, i just helped out the polecat population explosion by eliminating four of them.

A couple days later I was driving down the same country road on my way to church when I saw a buzzard perched on a fence post, then I saw another and another. Maybe it was time for the local buzzard convention I thought.... Then my sense of smell kicked in and the stench was unbearable. It permeated ever inch of the car. I then remembered about the polecats that had met their demise as a result of my erratic driving. As I rounded the corner six more buzzards sat in the middle of the road feasting upon a plateful of dead polecat. Each one of them had a white streak that covered half their face and down their breasts. They looked a little strange and out of place. I wondered how they could eat something that smelled so badly. The closer I got the worse the smell got and it was then i discovered the buzzards were wearing their dinner napkins "cowboy style" and that's how they were able to avoid the smell.

Moral of the story: where there is a will there is a way!!!   and that 's it for today.