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Growing up in God's Little Acre

My Childhood Years

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Clearwater Baptist Church
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Vacation Bible School

Clearwater Elelmentary School
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Mirt, Ed, Eve, Babs and Shirley Franklin

Clearwater Pond
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Shelby Thomas, Catherine Kirkland, Peggy Cato, Joan Boyd, Daisy Youngblood, Shirley Franklin,Melba

Steps at Clearwater Elementary
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Daisy Youngblood, Lelia Redd, Shirley Franklin and Jouette Davis

These memories have been written as I think of them....not necessarily as they happened when growing up in Horse Creek Valley.

It was a cold winter night in December ...as a matter of fact it was one week before Christmas... when I was born.  I can only imagine how my Mom must have felt going into labor at Christmas time with her fourth child.   Like the children before me, Mom gave birth to me at home. I was taken straight to the hospital because I was a very sick baby and stayed in the hospital for months. Previous to my birth, Mom had given birth to our only brother (Edward) and two sisters, Eve and Myrtle .  I was born only 18 months after my sister Myrtle and I sometimes I think we should have been twins.  I guess the mold was still warm thus giving us so many of the same traits and genes.....except she got all the brains.  A couple of years after my birth Mom gave birth to our youngest sister, Barbara, making five children for Mom. 

 When Barbara was six weeks old our Dad left and Mom had to support us five kids alone.  In spite of being poor and no Father figure we were happy, and good kids.  Mom ruled with an iron hand....is that the right saying????

I don't remember much about my Dad.  After leaving us I heard that he made moon shine....they tell me that stuff would blow your head off and eat your guts out....I wonder if that contributed to Dad's early death at age 50. 

 While Mom worked the older siblings took care of us younger ones....did I say that already???...that's the way it was back then.  The neighbors also helped watch after us...neighbors helping neighbors...no welfare.  I can remember our neighbors saying my older sister (Eve) was like a Mother hen gathering her chicks every night.  My brother quit school in his teen years to work in the mill and help Mom.  He was the closest thing I had for a father figure. He thought of us as his little girls and no one better not bother us.  In return we girls spoiled him rotten.

The older children always made sure we had our baths and homework. During those early years of my life our baths were given in a tub on the back porch.  We had no inside bathroom, only an outhouse at the very back of the lot.  It was pitch black dark up there at the outhouse and I was so scared of the dark.  I was also scared of getting lost....still am scared of both.  

Mom never owned a gun so when she thought we were in danger she would stand behind the door with a coke bottle to hit them in the head. hehe Tuff wasn't she? 

Sex was not allowed period.  You were not even allowed to discuss it.  Most girls were still virgins when marrying back then...I know I was.  Mom put the fear of GOD in you. 

When we washed our clothes it was with a rub board and tub, as a matter of fact there were three wash tubs.  One tub was for washing, the second was for bleaching and the third was for rinsing.  We had an assembly line and hung the clothes on a clothes line.  The clothes had to be hung by color and size with the largest pieces first and the smallest pieces last. The curtains had to be put on stretchers cus they would shrink and lose their shape.

All clothes had to ironed...no such thing as polyester.  We had to cook the starch (Argo) on the stove top in order to starch the clothes.  We used an old coke bottle with a sprinkle cap inserted to sprinkle the clothes for ironing.  We had to scrub the floors with soap and bleach...we had no floor coverings or paint on the floors.  The furniture  had to be polished and the yards raked so that everything was clean before the week end.  I can remember raking the yards because they were all sand...no grass.  The raked lines had to be straight or we had to redo them.

I remember ice being delivered by the block.  We had an ice box for the ice and used a Ice pick to chip it into small pieces.  We used a lot of tea but I don't remember it ever being kept in the ice box...it stayed on the table.  I guess we drank it fast enough that it never spoiled.  Not only was the ice delivered but so was the milk...the milk man (Herndon Dairy- Bo Herndon) left it on the porch.  We also had a vegetable truck that came by and sold fresh produce.  It was delivered by Ansel Dyar and in later years the produce man was Mr. Richardson (Barney's Dad).

We lived in a three room shotgun house that the company owned until later years when Mom bought it (see pic below).  Mom still lives there.  UPDATE:  Since Mom passed away our brother Ed lives there.  We had three to a bed including Mom.  The person in the center had their head at the foot of the bed between two set of feet.  We changed positions so no one had to sleep at the foot all the time.  Remember there were no king or queen size beds...only full size that had iron head and foot boards.  I remember our chewing gum being stuck on the iron head board.  We had no room for a living room…two bedrooms and a kitchen made up our three room house until many years later. 

Oh, I almost forgot, we had to sun the mattresses but I don't remember why....maybe bed bugs????  If one child got head lice, all five would have them.  Lord have mercy, I don't see how Mom lived through it all.

Mom got paid on Fridays with boogaloos (sp)  which were used in the company store ....no cash or checks back then.  We didn't have a car but the company store was at the end of the street in walking distant.  On payday we would run to meet Mom and she would have us ukanita (sp) pies and milk.

For entertainment we played ball, hop scotch and cards.  When playing poker we used bottle stoppers as money.  We also had a jogging board.   It's a wonder we lived to be grown. 

I almost forgot to list dancing as entertainment.  I think we must have invented the shag.  We would shag and do the jitter bug....even did the Charleston.  We would teach the guys to dance too.  Adrian Weaver was a student that is the best shagger in the valley.  I almost forgot to mention we played hide and seek a lot...sometimes till dusk when the lightening bugs were flying.  They were truly a design made by GOD.

I also remember some kind of weed that some of the teen children would roll up in tissue leafs and smoke... it was called rabbit tobacco.  I never smoked rabbit tobacco though.

The windows in the houses stayed raised (I can hear the crickets chirping now) cus there was no air conditioning.  It was muggy hot in the south especially during dog days.

We all learned to swim in Clearwater pond, except for the younger sister.  Mom was afraid she would get hurt so she wasn't allowed to go...what about me Mom???   My older siblings taught me to float before I could swim so I would be floating all over Clearwater pond....I did become a good swimmer later though. 

To get to town we would walk about mile to the highway and catch a taxi.  I remember Mom giving my brother money for a cab but he kept the money and thumbed.  Having a little girl with him, helped him get a ride easier.  People thumbed a lot back then and it wasn't as dangerous as it is now....no drugs.

I only remember two doctors in the area.  They were old Dr. Royal and Dr. Kennedy....no specialist.  Shoot, they could treat any disease from colic to arthritis...no need for a specialist.  Dr. Royal's son practices in Aiken now but no medical doctors are currently practicing in the valley that I know of....wonder why????UPDATE: They have Dr. Englee in Graniteville now.

There were two theaters about 6-7 miles away in Augusta Ga. that had matinees for youths on Saturday mornings...the Miller and Imperial.   I almost forgot the one that showed the discount movies, it was the Realto.  I once saw “Little Jimmy Dickens”  next door at Snappy's.

In the fifth grade (I think it was the fifth) I had perfect attendance and won a trip to Charleston....can you image this little girl in a historic town so far away????  I will never forget Fort Sumter where some of the civil war was fought. UPDATE: I am not sure if it was perfect attendance or if it was a field trip....memory gone.

My Aunt Dot would let me stay with her in the summer months.  Her son Johnny Johnson was always a part of our life too. He was like a brother then and now.  Once I was suppose to go to Fla with him to visit his Dad...I remember going to the company store asking for boxes to pack my clothes in.  Well, his Dad wouldn't take me and it broke my heart.  I remember getting caught in my first fib.  I didn't have the heart to tell everyone I couldn't go so I said I flew there and back.  It was also my first lesson that fibs will find you out.  Tuff lesson learned the hard way. 

All of us children would stay with Mom’s relatives to help Mom catch up her debts during the summer months.  Our youngest sister (Babs) was Mom's favorite so we nick named her "Pet Skinny".....Mom mostly kept her home with her.  She loved drawing a play house in the sand and decorating the make believe rooms.  She still loves cleaning house. Yuck!!   I wonder if the reason I swept away her playhouse in the sand was being jealous of Mom's love for her????? 

I am so grateful to Mom's family especially her sister, (Dot) for showing me so much love. She kept me so many summers.  She was not only my aunt, she was my best friend then and in my adult years.  She is now deceased and I miss her soooo much. I remember Mom's brother and his wife Edna keeping me also and I am so grateful to them. Children never forget ppl that are good to them. 

Dot's son Johnny is my Mom's heart....mine too.  He and his wife, Betty are so good to Mom.  Johnny loved racing and drove in a lot of races.  I loved watching him drive in the races...it put so much excitement into the race.  He was very good...thanks for the memories, Johnny.

Other than our family I remember three other BIG families in the mill village.  The Adams (see pic below), the Youngbloods and Turners.....they had bigger families than we.    Anyway we had enough children to have our own ball teams.  No birth control pills back in those days...very few babies were planned....I know I wasn't.

We weren't the only poor kids growing up because most everyone was poor, especially in our younger years because those were the years of the depression.

Speaking of the depression I still have my book of ration stamps that were issued to Mom.  She got a book for each child (I think they were called ration stamps).  I think they were for shoes...it seems they were rationed for the leather needed for World War 11.

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot to tell you about the Klu Klux Klan.  They would ride by the house with sheets over their head and burn a cross in the yard of anyone they thought was nelecting their family.....the person didn't have to be black either.  If they thought a man was out drinking and gambling away his money and not providing for his family they burned the cross in his yard.  I was so scared of them. I recognized one of them as they rode under the street light.  I kept that secret all my life...his idenity.

I had never had a real steak till after I was married.  We only had cubed steak and stew beef.  I was so confused when asked how I wanted my steak cooked....I didn't know of anything but fried.

We would cup our hand to rinse our mouth with water after brushing our teeth.  I didn't know it wasn't normal to cup your hand to get the water needed to rinse your mouth....shoot, I still do that. 

I also remember the goat man.  He traveled on foot all the way across North America with all his goats and some sort of a wagon carrying a few necessaries.  I remember him milking the goats.

All of the old timers are dying and taking so much history with them. UPDATE:  All mentioned below are now deceased. I can only think of a few old timers still living from the Clearwater mill village.  All of them, including Mom, are in their 90s now.   As of today, there's Lillian Newman, Margaret Allen, Katherine Cato and Lucille Dimsdale, that I can think of that are still alive and in their 90s now.  Ms. Cato, Ms. Newman and Mom (Ruth Franklin Key) are still living alone in the mill village. 

(Since this was written all of the above are now deceased ) 

One neighbor (Mrs. Dimsdale) taught me to drive an old Model "T" OR Model "A"  Ford.....I think that's right.  You had to fight with the steering wheel (no power stirring) and pump the brakes to stop (see pic below).  We would be riding and laughing so hard tears would be running down our legs. LOL   I wish I could repay her for her kindness. UpDATE  Has passed away. She is having her 95th birthday next month...November, 2006. View more pic below. (99 years old now)

Ms. Dimsdale once made my Halloween costume out of crepe paper.  It was a pumpkin outfit....I was a pumpkin then and now. LOL Her daughter, (Mary) my best friend, would play the piano by ear....no notes.  She could tear that piano up.  She made up a song called "Clearwater Boogie Woogie". UPDATE My precious friend Mary passed away also....breaks my heart.
 
I stayed at their  house for days at a time.  I remember her fixing us french fries and banana sandwiches for lunch.  In the south everything was fried....shoot, we could fry water. hehe 
 
I remember eating so many hocakes, grits, dried beans and crackling cornbread.  My best memory was the chocolate layer cakes with pecans on each thin layer that Mom made.  The chocolate was made on top of the stove from scratch.  I remember licking the pan.  Mmmmmm  I wish I could remember how to make that chocolate.  Mom would stick knife holes into the cake and the chocolate would run all through the cake layers.
 
After viewing pic below please return to top for page 3....another chapter of my life

Our Three Room Shotgun House

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T Model Ford
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Shirley Franklin and Mary Dimsdale

Ms. Dimsdale and Shirley (me)
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My second Mom (Lucille Dimsdale)

The Adams Family
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Thanks to Tommy (their only son) for many of these pics

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