RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Union

Depression Hobos and Aunt Annie Mae

The two-story boarding house proudly graced the corner of Green Street and Boyce Street in Union, South Carolina. It faced the Union Mill.

     Painted white, like all of the other mill village houses, the windows sparkled in the June sun. Annie Mae Bobo was an excellent cook, but she also took pride in keeping her household spic-and-span.

     Her eight male boarders felt blessed to pay room and board for one dollar a week. Two men shared each of the four upstairs rooms. The bachelor’s ages extended from sixteen to nineteen.

     Annie Mae and her daughter Noddie, a family nickname for Norma, washed the sheets and swept the rooms once a week. She provided her own handmade quilts for warmth in the winter. Opening the two windows in each room brought in fresh, and sometimes cool, air in the spring and summer. Available for spit baths and shaving were a pitcher, bowl, mirror, and towels.

          A single, light bulb in a brass socket, dangling from the ceiling, provided pale light at night. Two, black wires loosely crawled up the walls and across to the socket from the switch beside the door. Green tape partially held the two wires together.

     The outhouse was only yards from the back door. That forty-yard dash was not inconvenient to anyone, and it was a two-hole necessary house.

These are the opening lines of the short story, “Annie Mae” in my new book, Tales of a Cosmic Possum. (available October 14, 2017) Annie Mae was one of my husband John’s aunts, and she had a open heart. She often reminded her children, as well as all within earshot, to “do right by the good Lord, he’p yer own kin, he’p others ye meet along the way.”

Hobos lived a life on-the-go; most of them traveled from one job to another by train.

Image result for great depression boarding houses

In the hobo villages, family safety was a concern, and ingenuity was the answer.

Image result for great depression boarding houses

Finding food was a constant problem. Hobos often begged for food at a local farmhouse. If the farmer was generous, the hobo would mark the lane so that later hoboes would know this was a good place to beg. They took jobs no one else would take.

Hobos created items to sell for some spare change. This cup was made from a tin can, a hollow stick, and some copper wire.

The Hobo Code was quickly learned; it was a survival tool. Life as a hobo was difficult and dangerous. To help each other out, these vagabonds developed their own secret language to direct other hobos to food, water, or work – or away from dangerous situations. The Hobo Code helped add a small element of safety when traveling to new places.

The diverse symbols in the Hobo Code were scrawled in coal or chalk all across the country, near rail yards and in other places where hobos were likely to convene. The purpose of the code was not only to help other hobos find what they needed, but to keep the entire lifestyle possible for everyone. Hobos warned each other when authorities were cracking down on vagrants or when a particular town had had its fill of beggars; such helpful messages told other hobos to lie low and avoid causing trouble until their kind was no longer quite so unwelcome in those parts.

Since Annie Mae and her husband Roy’s house wasn’t far from the railroad, their home would have seen many of these hobos. This couple had little in the way of worldly possessions or ready-money, but they believed in and daily lived out the Golden Rule.

Matthew 7:12 (NIV) “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and Prophets.”

Whether a cup of cold water from their well, several apples picked from the apple tree in the back, or a left over biscuit from breakfast, Annie Mae shared what she had. She loved her neighbor.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Perhaps the question for me and you today is “Who is my neighbor?” Annie Mae would tell us anyone we meet “along the way.”

 

 


 

 

Advertisements

Buffalo Mill in Union, SC

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

Construction for Buffalo Mill began in 1900, and the two seven-story towers were completed in 1901. The engineering firm of W. O Smith Whaley was the designer. The Romanesque Revival detailing was popular during this time. The typical industrial design included arches and brick work.

This large complex of buildings included the main mill,  mill office, power house, ice factory, company store, warehouse, and company bank/drug store. Besides operative and supervisor houses in the mill village, a baseball park and school were built.

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

Power House

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

Clock Tower

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

Ice Factory

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

The stain glass dome, Terrazzo floor, and marble fountain were a touch of elegance to the office building.

Buffalo-Mill-Historic-District

Thomas Cary Duncan founded Union and Buffalo mills. He was known as Union’s pioneer capitalist and industrialist. He connected Union and Buffalo mills with his own railroad. Hundreds of families moved to Union from North Carolina and Tennessee and spent their lives working in these cotton mills. This investment introduced the textile industry to this land that once was hunting grounds for the Cherokee.

Thomas Cary Duncan

T. C. Duncan inherited Keenan Plantation from his grandparents, which he renamed Merridun. Remodeling this family property became important. Adding to the piazza resulted in 2400 square feet of porch space. He refurbished the 7900 square feet Georgian floor plan which included a stunning curved staircase, large foyers on both floors, a music room, parlor, library, dining room, kitchen, 7 bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, and a third story cupola. Frescoed ceilings in the music room and dining room, mosaic tiles and turn of the century stenciling and faux graining in the main foyer, and beautiful chandeliers enhanced the mansion’s beauty.

Image result for photo of inn of the merridun union south carolina

Image result for photo of inn of the merridun union south carolina

Image result for photo of inn of the merridun union south carolina

Related image

Perhaps you are wondering why I have shared this information with you today, and it really is back-to-the-past.

My husband John grew up in Union, South Carolina. His father, mother, as well as extended family members, worked in the Union and Buffalo cotton mills. This May, 2017, you will be able to read about their lives in my new book, Tales of a Cosmic Possum.

And on my fiftieth birthday, John treated me to dinner at the Inn at the Merridun with some of our friends. What a fun time it was! The house was lovely, as you can see by the above photos.

Below is one of the best chocolate muffin recipes I have ever tasted, and the owner of the Inn shared it with me. Since Valentine’s Day is in just a few days, I thought to share it with you. I believe you will like/love it. As you know, chocolate is my favorite. Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
Makes 24 regular muffins or about 7-8 dozen mini muffins

I had the privilege of having this recipe included in an innkeepers’ cookbook – Chocolate for Breakfast and Tea. As much as I love chocolate, I’m not always fond of chocolate muffins or breads—this is one exception. They are rich and moist, and our guests gobble them up.

½ cup butter, softened
1-1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or line muffin pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt all at once. Mix just until ingredients are blended. Stir in mashed banana, chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean—be careful not to hit a melted chocolate chip! Cool for 5 minutes; then remove muffins from tins, and place them on a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Image result for photo of inn of the merridun union south carolina