This farm series is a pictorial account of two summers I spent at my grandparents’ farm in 1944 and 1945 in Adel, Cook County, Georgia. The stories are based on actual facts that happened during those summers when I was twelve and thirteen years old. My parents were both educators. At that time, black teachers were only required to have one year of college to begin teaching. Daddy suggested that they should continue their educations and attend summer school at Atlanta University. When school closed for the summer in 1944, Mama took my sister Florine and me from our hometown of Hinesville to Adel to stay with our grandparents. Most of the artwork is centered around the activities of Florine and me and our three cousins, Ethel, Mary and Martha.
Flagging Down the Train
When Florine and I were small children in Hinesville, Mama would take us by train to Adel. The train did not come through Hinesville, so Daddy would get someone to take us to a small community a few miles away. As the train got in sight, the man whose car we rode in would tease and frighten us by sitting on the track and pretend to let the train run over him. When the train got closer, he would stand on the track and wave his handkerchief back and forth in the air to stop the train. In later years we rode the Greyhound or Trailways bus.
At Granddaddy’s house the dining table was set twice for each meal every day. The grownups ate at the first seating, and the children, along with the aunts who cooked the food and waited on the first table, ate at the second seating. When time to harvest the crops, Granddaddy hired men, women and children from the community and from town to help with the work. The hired hands could bring their lunches or opt for having the meager cost of the meals taken from their pay. Many of them chose to eat the delicious meals prepared by my aunts and grandmother.
The Cotton Field
Cotton was planted in a different field each summer. August was cotton picking month and the last crop to be harvested before we went back to Hinesville. Many people from town and from the community came to pick cotton. They wore wide brim straw hats and long sleeved shirts to protect themselves from the hot sun and sticky cotton plants. Each person selected a row and moved swiftly up and down, picking the fluffy white balls and putting them into long burlap sacks that hung around their necks so both hands were free to pick. We children had smaller sacks made especially for us. When the bags became full or too heavy, the pickers would take they cotton to be weighed, because they were paid according to how much cotton they picked.
Monday Morning Wash Day
Monday morning was washday at the farm. Water was drawn from the well and carried to fill four big tin tubs. We used lye soap made from animal fat after hog killing time and octagon soap and washing powder bought in town to wash the clothes. The clothes were scrubbed on the washboard, then put into boiling water and poked with a stick every few minutes until thought to be clean enough to put into the first pot of rinse water. Whites were washed first, then colored clothes and finally the darker clothes. Bluing was put into the final rinse for the white clothes. Then the clothes were hung to dry on two rows of heavy wire clothesline that ran the length of the house.
Saturday Afternoons – The Picture Show
There was no fieldwork on Saturdays; however, on Saturday mornings we kids had the duty of “sweeping the yards”. Most small town Southerners did not grow grass in their yards, so the custom was to sweep the yards with brush or straw brooms. Perhaps we were tired by Saturday morning for we were lazy at this job. Grandmama would encourage us to work faster with a promise to let us go to the movies in the afternoon if we finished our job.
Double features at the picture show included a western “Shoot ’Um Up” and usually a comedy. There was always a cartoon at the beginning of each movie. There was a “colored section” in the balcony and a “white section” downstairs. We “colored people” went to the side window to buy our tickets and the “whites” went to the front window. We didn’t have a choice but we were little girls and happy to be able to see moving pictures.
The Rolling Store
The rolling store was a store on wheels filled with general merchandise that came out to the rural areas in Georgia. Usually the store got around once a week to each area of the county. The rolling store, to my remembrance, carried many products: bolts of cloth, needle and thread, flavoring and spices for pies and cakes, salt and pepper, sugar, coffee, rice, flour, meal, dried beans and peas, canned goods, soap, Epson salt for constipation and a good spring clean-out, cod liver oil to prevent colds … and ‘asafetida’ to put in bags that were tied around babies’ necks for colds and other ailments.
Under the large shelter behind Granddaddy’s house, there was a cane grinder that would be turned by mule or by tractor to grind the juice from the cane. The juice flowed down a narrow trough into a large kettle where it was boiled to make syrup. The cooked syrup was poured into bottles and corked or sealed tightly in cans. Granddaddy made lots of syrup. He sold some of his syrup and always had enough syrup for home use.