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Tag Archives: ” Hendersonville

Our Family Circle

 

I grew up in a family that ate our meals together at the kitchen table or the dining room table. We had assigned seats at each place that I never figured out. The kitchen table was round, and the dining room table was a rectangle. Mother fixed and served our childhood plates.

One of my earliest memories of a catastrophic supper was at our small duplex on East Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

As an opinionated preschooler, I had decided that I didn’t like the taste or texture of raisins. My two-year-old brother Critt was given the last of the corn flakes; he sat in his high chair munching away. The next thing I knew was that a bowl of Raisin Bran was in front of me. I questioned this decision and made quite a protest. Then I had the audacity to demand a switch with my brother. Neither of my parents listed to me, so I made a decision to take the situation into my own hands. Without thinking about possible end results, I stood up, grabbed the high chair’s tray, and pulled.

The results were not what I expected.

With a noisy crash, the high chair fell forward. Then with an earsplitting scream, my brother announced that his forehead hit the table. Bedlam reigned, as my parents jumped into protective mode. Blood, a high-speed rush to the ER, and stitches were the end result.

No, I never learned to either like or eat raisins, but my selfish, childish actions have caused me embarrassment. A smidgen of this escapade still rattles around the corners of my memories.

My dad was a stickler for manners on all occasions, even at the table. “Please” and ‘Thank you” were phrases that were expected.  If we wanted the ketchup bottle, we had to use the required “please.” If “thank you” was not our next response, the ketchup would be taken away. We learned in a hurry to not forget the phrases.

I clearly remember a few weeks at the supper table that provided distinctive entertainment.

My brother was around three, and I was six. Picking up his milk glass for a drink became a challenge for some reason. He took several sips and then spilled the rest of the glass on the table, the floor, and himself. (Interesting that this accident never happened at any other meal.) Through surreptitious glances in his direction, I remember watching to see when the trouble was going to happen, and then suddenly he just stopped spilling the glass of milk..

Critt was always a jokester and a tease. He particularly relished my gullibility, as he shared tall tales with me. To this day, I don’t know whether the spills were purposeful and he finally grew tired of the game or what. I was sorry the anticipated spills stopped, but am sure my parents were thankful.

Our family meals were not always around a table. Franklin Curtus Justus, known as F.C.,  my grandmother’s brother, enjoyed camping in Pisgah Forest. He and his wife Ina lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, so the commute was an easy one. They often invited other family members to join them for breakfast on Saturdays.

My dad was convinced that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he was eager to accept these invitations to a cooked meal on a creek bank. I can see his smile of anticipation, as we walked toward their camp site.

There is a lush area of cove forests and streams known as the Pink Beds, and this was the chosen place. The area is named for the profusion of pink wildflowers, including mountain laurel and rhododendron, which appears in the spring.

It was the smells that led us to breakfast from the car. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee burst through the air. Shortly behind were the scents of bacon frying in an iron skillet over a cooking fire. Hollers of welcome soon joined the mealtime odors.

Before long, blue tin plates, almost overflowing with eggs, grits, and bacon, were in each hand. Hot coffee or milk was poured into matching mugs. A hodgepodge of forks and spoons were available, and my grandparents (Alex and Edythe Cox), parents Sam and Evelyn Collins, various great aunts and uncles found canvas camp stools, metal lawn chairs, or stumps to sit on. There were always several station wagons, and the tail gates were let down for more seating.

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No one sat far away from the group, because everyone wanted to be part of the conversations. As the plates were cleaned, the chats increased.

Family memories were shared about my great grandparents and the rock house that Pop (Franklin Curtis Justus, 1871-1958) built. He was a contractor for the Saluda Grade that ran through the Saluda Mountain, and he owned acres of land in Hendersonville County until the Crash and Great Depression. A tall, strong man who took what was available in the job market, even if it was bagging groceries, to keep his family together. Hearing his adult children talk about him, their admiration was evident.

Granny (Minnie Fortune Justus, 1875-1970) graduated from Asheville Female College with a degree in Mistress of Arts and Sciences. To make ends meet for their large family of ten children, she took in boarders and used her gift of hospitality to make all welcome. From using clean, ironed cloth napkins at each meal to seeing that fresh room linens were always available, she taught her daughters why sharing the best was important. Even into her late 80’s, all received a warm welcome to her home.

I learned some of my family history at these breakfast picnics. This generation learned how to ride horses, before they drove cars. They plowed, planted, and weeded gardens before they ate the fruit of their labors and sold the access. Fishing, hunting, and raising beef cows, hogs, and chickens added to the vegetables they grew. Being only familiar with grocery shopping, their lives sounded like fascinating tall tales to me, similar to one of my favorite books, Little House on the Prairie.

Mostly I caught and grabbed hold to the love and respect that was an essential portion that tied them together. Though they lacked much in worldly possessions, they relished the retelling of stories about their kinfolk and lineage.

On my dad’s side of the family, we also often shared meals outdoors, rather than indoors.

For years, we spent his week of summer vacation at Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Though born in Louisville, Daddy, his two brothers, and sister learned to walk, climb trees, and milk cows on this dairy farm.

My grandmother Lulu and her brother and sister enjoyed getting together. When we visited, we spent one day in Lexington with her brother Owen Hitt. They lived outside the city, and his wife Carrie Lee would prepare a picnic lunch to be eaten on a picnic table under the trees in their back yard. There was fried chicken, an array of vegetables from her garden, hot biscuits with homemade butter, and cobbler for dessert. Sweet ice cold tea was the beverage. It was a feast! Our hostess was full of laughter and energetic. Our next treat was to go to the fence to talk and pat the horses in the field, and the adults joined us.

On another day, we went to Louisville to be with Aunt Kitty. Here we were back to the dining room with the lace tablecloth, silver, and lovely china. Our hostess was conscious of good eating habits, so baked chicken or ham, a couple of vegetables, yeast rolls, and usually a slice of pie were served. Water in goblets and coffee were served. This was where I first saw individual salt and pepper shakers and bread and butter plates and knives at each place, The table cloth and napkins were hand embroidered by her mother-in-law. I felt like a princess here and learned that table conversation can be quiet. Trying hard to be compliant and well-behaved in such surroundings was a challenge worth meeting. Going through the many book shelves in her home were the entertainment as the adults visited.

Lulu prepared a family picnic the day before we left for home. Contributions from everyone led to two eight-foot tables sagging under the weight of all the food offerings. Lulu’s garden served up lima beans, corn, tomatoes, green beans, and beets. Her blackberry cobbler and chocolate pie had to be tasted by all. Cousins came to play, and the yard was our playground. There was no jungle gym, but a tire swing hung from the apple tree. We hung on the rail fence to watch the cows meander back and forth from the barn. A game of softball catch was fun, and we tried our hands of little skill at horse shoes.

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Ladder back chairs and stools were brought out from the kitchen. The cast iron outdoor glider, swing, and chairs were arranged in a circle, so the adults could hear each other. We children were allowed to roam free after the blessing. Laughter and loud talking were in equal measure, as plates were refilled from the lavish tables.

They shared both familiar and new stories. Our ancestor Jesse James, the bank robber, was vilified and defended. Since we had all visited Boonesborough, Lulu would disclose her knowledge about Daniel Boone and his clearing a path through the Cumberland Gap. Then we begged for the story of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia and his adventures in finding new land in Virginia with his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. Sitting on the grass, making daisy-chain necklaces, these adventures became real.

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Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52)

It is no wonder that I used to pack my little brown suitcase and want to go to “Tucky. Since it was my doll’s luggage, there was little room for anything. But I wasn’t planning on an extended stay; I was yearning for my family and their stories.

American writer, Michele Huey, said “Roots are, I’m learning, as important as wings.”

Our stories are important; let’s share them with family and friends.

 

 

 

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Family Roots and “Christy”

My mother’s parents and great grands were all four born in Hendersonville, NC. This small, mountain town, only twenty-two miles from Asheville, still has a simple and nostalgic atmosphere about it. Everywhere benches and tables invite its visitors to “set a spell.”

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When we would visit my grands, there always seemed to be time for an excursion downtown. There was never an agenda; it was only a stroll. But somewhere in the roaming was a stop by McFarlan Bakery.

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No one can walk by the open doors to McFarlan Bakery. The smells will drag you in the door. All items are made from scratch daily; this family-owned bakery uses the same recipes from their past sixty years ago. Their salt rising bread, toasted with butter, is one of the best ways to start any day; it doesn’t require preserves or jelly.  A piece of  lemon meringue pie is the perfect conclusion to any meal. Decorated or undecorated cookies, cakes, donuts, and special orders are always available. As a child, I always chose a sugar cookie. Now as an adult, it is hard to make only one decision.

Besides sharing with me a love for her birthplace, Nanna, my grandmother, loved historical novels of all eras. She introduced me to famous women authors like Inglis Fletcher, Gwen Bristow, and Catherine Marshall. All three wrote about strong women who faced life with gumption and faced its challenges with passion.

Christy was one of her favorites when it was published in 1968, and it soon became mine. This was my first read about Appalachia and the struggles with daily life in this region. There is drama a-plenty in this novel that would be categorized with a coming-of-age theme. Catherine Marshall retold the story of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, and her time in Cutter’s Gap.

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In 1912, and against the wishes of her parents, nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston leaves her life of privilege and ease in Asheville to become a missionary teacher in an impoverished and isolated valley in the Smoky Mountains. Cutter Gap is the fictional community. The job turns out to be more difficult than she had anticipated, as she comes to know and care for the wild mountain people with their fierce pride, terrible poverty, dark superstitions, and their yearning for beauty and truth.

The villagers have old-fashioned ways. For example, they maintain rules and vengeances similar to the Highland clans of old Scotland. They also have a strong belief in folk medicine. Sprinkled with Appalachian sayings, like “twitter-witted,” as a husband calls his wife and son, realism takes a front seat. Teaching in one-room with 70+ children made me grateful for the class sizes in my profession.

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Christy never took her eyes off her goal of teaching. Daily choices like how to get new books for the children or how to buy a black hat on her salary line up beside feuds, moonshine whiskey, rape, and the death of a baby. Her faith is severely tested—by her students and by the suffering of the people she comes to love. When her dearest friend dies during a typhoid epidemic, Christy questions the sovereignty and power of God.

The story line pulled me into this unique sense of place, people, and culture, and I fell in love with Appalachia for the first time. It’s time to read Christy once again.

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“I’ll Fly Away”

I can picture my Granny (great grandmother Justus) singing when she was snapping beans in her back yard.

She sat in a white iron chair. She held a white, porcelain bowl in her lap and threw the bean snips on the ground. Another bent tin bowl held the beans from her garden was beside the chair. Her apron kept her dress clean, because there was plenty of dirt on the beans from the garden patch.

Her foot would keep rhythm to any song she was singing. “I’ll Fly Away” was one of her favorites, and I learned to clap, as she sang. Granny would smile, as she sang, and those smiles reached her eyes.

Born and raised in Hendersonville, North Carolina, she loved keeping house. There was a sense of welcome and love that I can’t explain that came to greet her and Pop’s guests. They lost so much during the Depression. Even taking in boarders to their house at Laurel Cliff could not stay the selling of the land and house for taxes. They rented that five-room house.

Granny and Pop had eight children that lived to adulthood, and most of them lived in Hendersonville. Almost every Sunday afternoon, they all showed up at their parents’ home, as well as grandchildren and great grands. Granny always had cake, cookies, and coffee ready to serve. As the talking died down, often singing would begin. The hymns they sang at church were the hymns they sang at home. This was another favorite.

There was trust, faith, and hope on their faces and in their singing. This mountain family worked hard with their manual labor and never had much in the way of money. But they loved Jesus, their family, and other people.

Granny spent her last years in the local nursing home. She seldom knew her family members-not even her own children. She held a doll most of the time and talked to it, like it was one of her babies. But any time the home had someone come in to play the piano she’d sit right there and sing every word of every old gospel song they played. She didn’t know her children-but those songs of faith that guided her through her long long life were still there for her to call upon. It was amazing to me as a child to watch the transformation.

As I did the research about John’s Appalachian family, I heard stories of similar trust. They made-do with little, as they worked in upstate cotton mills. Another trait I found that was similar was their choice to not be beholden to anyone, but their hands were always out to help others. They all lived generous lives.

In May, Tales of a Cosmic Possum will be released, and you can read the short stories of eight of the women in John’s family. Yes, there are lyrics to their favorite songs and Appalachian sayings and recipes. It is chock full of life descriptions of living in a mill village or in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

One of my granny’s sayings was “Don’t git too big for your britches.” It took me a long time to understand what on earth this meant, but it is still good advice today. As we tell our family’s stories, they won’t be forgotten, and we won’t get too big for our britches.

Labor Day – a Holiday

Happy Labor Day 2015!

It’s a day to celebrate American workers who have in the past and still do work with their hands.

Did you know that Labor Day was recognized as a federal holiday in 1894, but some states had already started celebrating it? It’s held on the first Monday in September.

For many, it marks the unofficial end of summer. When I was in elementary school, we didn’t start the school year until the day after Labor Day.

My family would make a trip to Hendersonville, NC in the 1950’s to see my Granny and go to the Apple Festival down town. I can remember Critt and I sitting on the curb with our knees resting on our chins. We waved small flags. There were bands, floats, old cars, clowns, and lots of people to keep us entertained; this parade hasn’t changed much, but I am not sure I could get up off the curb if I was able to get down there.

Many hawkers walked Main Street with their wares, including my favorite candy apples. We always ended the day at my great grandmother’s house with a picnic. Since several of her eight children lived in the town, the yard was cluttered with chairs and a groaning table of fried chicken with all the trimmings. (Mother never had to persuade my dad to go visiting on this day; he knew it would be good eating.)

Today we celebrate this three day weekend with cook outs, road trips, sales, and just enjoying an extra day off. Workers in the 1880’s fought for this holiday.


pittsburgh, first labor day parade, 1882, labor day, labor day celebration, holiday

Laborers in the 1800’s often worked twelve hours a day, every day of the week. In 1882, Pittsburgh was the place for one of the first Labor Day parades. Most men worked 84 hours a week for $10 in the steel mills. Andrew Carnegie owned those mills.

Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded the plight of mill workers in “Sixteen Tons.”

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In 1894, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike.

Typically clad in a black dress, her face framed by a lace collar and black hat, the barely five-foot tall Mother Jones was a fearless fighter for workers’ rights—once labeled “the most dangerous woman in America” by a U.S. district attorney.


Mary Harris Jones was an activist and radical who helped win the end to child labor in America. In 1897, Jones addressed a union convention where the workers began to affectionately call her “Mother Jones.”

Called the “Children’s Crusade,” Jones lead children on a march to Teddy Roosevelt’s hometown to show the millionaires in New York the faces of child labor. Their banner said  “we want to go to school, not mines.“This march paved the way to the end of child labor.

Famous for writing “This Land is Your Land, This Land Is My Land” and numerous other radical songs, Guthrie’s songs captured the history of the movement.

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The Industrial Revolution changed our country from an agrarian society, where products were crafted as needed by hand, to machine-aided factories in the cities. For protection against the industrial giants who owned the factories and the company stores, the workers protested low wages and long hours. They weren’t afraid of hard work, but the schedules were back-breaking.

Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor said, “All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.”

I have enjoyed researching this holiday today. Labor Day isn’t about putting up my white shoes and white linen or recognizing that summer is officially over.  It is a day to remember the contributions workers have made to the strength and growth of our country. There is much to be grateful for.

“The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

“Shall We Gather at the River?”

My husband John was baptized in a lake in Union when he was 13. After he was baptized, he struck off across the lake to the other side.

His mother stood on the bank hollering “John William, get back here.” Finally deciding that this was not swim time, John turned and swam back to the shore where he started. Mom’s hissy fit subsided, and all was well.

I have a picture in my mind of this adventure that always causes me to laugh. Mother and son had a word of prayer later, and the other adults in the congregation must have had a good laugh, too. They were also probably quite content that their children had not chosen to swim after their baptism.

Robert Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist pastor of several large churches, and a music editor at Bigelow Publishing Company.

One hot afternoon in July, 1864, as he was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. There was an epidemic in the city causing many deaths. In his imagination, he saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. He began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As he mused, the words and music to “Shall We Gather at the River” came to his heart and mind.

“Shall We Gather at the River” became a favorite song of camp meetings, water baptismal services and funerals.

We used to drive to Hendersonville to visit my great-grandmother. Sitting out under the trees beside her house, her sons, daughters, grands, and great grands would gather for visiting on those Sunday afternoons. There was a lot of storytelling and singing; that family loved to sing. We, children, would often march around to those old gospel songs; “Shall We Gather at the River” was one of them.

Shall We Gather at the River

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?M

Refrain:
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior’s face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.

Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

This song brings smiles to both singers’ and listeners’ faces. The rhythm is catchy, and I know it can easily sweep children into a march.

Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

Whether singing in the shower, loading the dishwasher, or with a group, singing is a good thing.