The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Posts tagged “Great Depression

The Rolling Store…

was a part of my mother’s childhood in Colbert County, Alabama. There used to be a store at the corner of Wilson Dam Road and 6th Street. There she and her siblings would take an egg and get penny candy. Or the Rolling Store would come by and an egg would be traded for penny candy. If you look around the 10:00 minute mark you will see the Murphy Brothers Rolling Store that used to traverse the roads in Lauderdale County. This story is among those of the Great Depression:


The Classmates of 1936 at Spring Valley School…

in Colbert County, Alabama all sit pretty for their photograph. This must have been a difficult time for those families in the Shoals area. This was during the Great Depression and times were hard. But look at how nicely these schoolchildren are dressed; they must have been a source of great pride for their families.

Please help identify those in the photograph. First row on left is Lacey King. Lacey is remarried now and lives in our home which was next door to my maternal grandparents, Robert and Drue Peebles. Lacey King married Frances Davenport and they had Evelyn and Robert King. Frances King was the daughter of Lee Gregory and Dee Davenport. Robert King is the one who shared this beautiful old photo with us. I wonder if any of the Lentz’ are in the photo for they may have been about that age. Can you tag the photo with those you can identify, please?

1936 Spring Valley School

1936 Spring Valley School


Hello Soldier, I am your brother…

Hillard and this is our little sister Alice.

Somehow it was always Alice who got into trouble, perhaps it was because Hillard just wouldn’t agree to punishment. Alice was in charge of seeing that her young brother got home in a timely manner from school – and herself for that matter. That must not have been an easy task because so much seemed to peak his interest. That particular afternoon the  trek home from the schools across town seemed particularly harrowing for Alice.

Hillard MurrayShe recounted the story of that afternoon and it seemed a movie was playing in her head as she relived the events of that unforgettable day. It was a day in early September of 1945. She was but nine years old, or almost for her birthday was in December. She was exasperated with her brother because she was sure that he would get her into trouble with his lollygagging.  After all the past is prologue.

Something had caught her brother’s attention further down the sidewalk in downtown Sheffield that particular day. He hurried to the store down the street.  I am sure she must have tapped those little feet and let out a few breaths of aggravation as she insisted that they go on down the road toward home; he refused to budge. Hillard later said it was a soldier with an Army duffel bag going down the street and then into the store.

When they reached the grocery store just a few blocks before the train tracks, Hillard stopped dead in his tracks. His little nose was pressed against the windowpane of the storefront window. Alice must have thought aloud and asked, what now?

World War II had just ended. Then, Alice noticed there was a soldier in there. The soldier was drinking a Coke. Alice noticed Hillard’s gaze go up to the soldier’s mouth  (and his little nose go up on the windowpane) as the soldier lifted the Coke bottle to his mouth, and then down as he lowered the bottle and its precious contents to the table again. Again. Again. And again. Alice nagged at him to come on,  let’s go home; but to him she was all but  invisible. All that mattered was that Coke bottle and the path it took from table to mouth, from mouth to table.

But then, she noticed something else. Maybe it was the soldier’s gold tooth that had her brother in awe of the young man in uniform. Not that the little boy and girl were not patriotic, but a Coke was a rare and precious commodity, and so was a gold tooth – a real genuine gold tooth. Gasp.

Of a sudden the little boy bounded forward and entered the store. She was caught unaware. She fumed as she considered that Hillard might have a nickel in his pocket. A nickel would buy a Coke, but just one.  She steamed that, dern, she didn’t know where he would get them but it seemed that Hillard always had a nickel in his pocket. A child with a nickel was exceedingly rare in those hard times that came on the heels of the Great Depression and a world war that had just ended. So, she drug her feet and went in after him hoping that he would just come on home with her and before she was to get into trouble because of his precociousness.

After entering the store, her brother continued to watch every move that the soldier made; every breath the soldier took. I insert here that I can all but tell you what happened next. That soldier asked the little boy, “What are you doing, Jabbo?”  The little boy was watching the soldier’s every breath; the sister was watching what would without a doubt be the little brother’s last breath. That was a certainty and an all but done deal.

Her brother made a query of the object of his intense study. He asked, “What is your name soldier?” The soldier answered, “James Murray.” The little boy said, “Soldier, I am your brother Hillard and this is our little sister, Alice.” Now, anyone with one eye and half-sense could predict what was to happen next.

Little brother and sister remembered for a lifetime the thrill of that day. Their mother had died when Alice was just a little girl and Hillard not much older. James Murray was but fifteen and the oldest child when his mother died. There was another brother, Ed Lee, who was the second oldest child.

Hillard and Alice recalled that their brother got them a taxi cab and they went shopping. Hillard and Alice recounted that, “He bought us everything.” Hillard stated about the day and the length of time it took to get home from that point that James must have known everybody in the town. It must have seemed like the whole entire town talked to and welcomed their big brother back home.  I don’t think anyone got in trouble that day for getting home late from school. To this day Hillard states that James was his hero. Much too late to ever tell him, I discover he is my hero, too.


The Depression era…

now, that was a very hard time for everybody.

 
The Peebles family was no exception. They knew hard times. All too well they knew all about hard times. During the depression era they were sharecroppers in Lawrence County in the Courtland and Hillsboro area. Betty Drue Jane Tolbert was born at Mountain Home in November of 1902. Mountain Home was also the summer home for the  General Joseph Wheeler family. I always thought that was a little on the silly side to have a summer home  within a short buggy drive distance from your winter home. But Mountain Home was situated on a little foothill. There it was cooler and the insects were less numerous. For the Tolbert family Mountain Home was their summer home. It was their winter home, spring time home, and fall home. I gather it wasn’t all that much of a ‘home’ to begin with. Betty Drue Jane Tolbert married Robert Duncan Peebles, who was born in Lauderdale County in Center Star. He was born in 1898 and they married in 1917.

Before they were married they would walk around in Courtland. Once while they were walking a bear was there, right

Slena Mae, Preston, RD, and Ellen Peebles 1934

Slena Mae, Preston, RD, and Ellen Peebles 1934

 there in a yard of a  home that still exists today. It must have scared Drue because she recalled it decades later.

Living a sharecropper life is hard on the whole family. The second eldest daughter, Slena Mae Peebles, told of some of the sharecropping homes where the family lived. For most of them, they would put newspaper on the walls for what little protection against the elements it would provide. One place they lived she said the front porch was high and she and the other children would play under there. The cracks in the walls would let the cold wind right through. And the cracks in the floor would give a view of the chickens pecking under the house. She recalled they did not have toys or dolls to play with; but, rather, would break off twigs at the forks of a branch. The fork would make the legs for their headless, armless, faceless dolls.  I might add that she played the game of Jacks with me when I was little, and I would venture to say that she was the Jacks champeen of the world, so she must have had lots of practice with Preston and Ellen growing up. Sometimes in the spring the girls would pick passion flowers, pick off just the right number of pistils or stamen. Presto, they would have a ballerina doll. Although, I doubt they ever saw a ballerina at that point anyway.

One son, R.D. Peebles, imagined himself a preacher. That is him in his little overalls. He would get up on that stump and place those little hands on his gallouses and preach. He would preach hell fire and damnation. At least as best a little guy was able. On that stump, he held very long sermons, it would seem. His sermons often consisted of the all important biblical admonitions of  ‘dog’ and ‘hairpin.’ Now don’t laugh those were pretty impressive words for a little preacher. R.D.’s oldest daughter, Mary Jane Cochran, asked did I know that her Daddy had filled in as preacher at their church. I had not known that.

At Christmas they were truly excited to get an apple or an orange and maybe sometimes a piece of candy. They didn’t have much, but neither did others they  knew, except for the Wheelers. Miss Annie Wheeler had a real porcelain doll. Drue had evidently seen or heard of it.  Drue would show the girls a Sears and Roebuck catalog and ask them which dress did they like best. Preston, Slena Mae, and Ellen would pick out one they liked and Drue would hand sew them one like it.  They would later put the pages to that Sears & Roebuck catalog to good use with a little crumpling. The girls’ dresses were made of flour sacks, as was their underwear. One day, Drue informed Slena Mae that she didn’t have any more flour sacks to make her any drawers and Slena Mae cried at that thought.

Drue’s first school was the Wheeler Basin Church building situated across the highway from the Joe Wheeler home. Slena Mae talked of going to school at Midway. Her teacher was Mrs Glenice _____ . She also taught me when I went to Colbert County High School. Children were often put to work in the fields of necessity. This limited the schooling that the children received. Preston could pick 300 pounds of cotton a day. Slena Mae and Ellen were not far behind. They also hoed cotton for pennies a day. The cotton picking would yield a whole 75 cents…or was the cotton the whole family picked that amounted to 75 cents per day?

Volumes could be written about the memories of their stories and their life. The photo accompanying this posting was made about 1934. The family had just lost a child of about eighteen months in age, J. W.,  to whooping-cough, iirc. Slena Mae told of the little one’s teeth marks that were still in the wooden eating table after he died. He made the teeth marks during teething as they would sit at the table.

In 1940 Reynolds Metals Aluminum Company opened at Listerhill, Alabama. They hired and trained a lot of local men. Robert Duncan Peebles was one of those men. They had moved to Sheffield. They lived in Sheffield the rest of their lives. After a train crushed into the car as Robert and co-workers headed to Reynolds to work and a long hospital stay, Robert D. Peebles retired from Reynolds Metals Company.  He received a gold watch for his years of service. He was a mason, a bass fiddle and fiddle player, and he was talented in making things with his hands. Robert Peebles is the one that even when he died, all his grandchildren seemed to think they were his favorite.

A high school student interviewed Drue Peebles in the 1980’s for a school project that required an oral history of someone who lived during the Great Depression. When asked what did she remember most about the Great Depression, Drue replied simply. She said, “Being hungry.”


Depression era…

1934 Slena Mae Peebles, R D Peebles, Preston Peebles, Ellen Peebles

1934 Slena Mae Peebles, R D Peebles, Preston Peebles, Ellen Peebles

now, that was a very hard time for everybody. The Peebles family was no exception. They knew hard times. All too well they knew all about hard times. During the depression era they were sharecroppers in Lawrence County in the Courtland and Hillsboro area. Betty Drue Jane Tolbert was born at Mountain Home in November of 1902. Mountain Home was also the summer home for the  General Joseph Wheeler family. I always thought that was a little on the silly side to have a summer home  within a short buggy drive distance from your winter home. But Mountain Home was situated on a little foothill. There it was cooler and the insects were less numerous. For the Tolbert family Mountain Home was their summer home. It was their winter home, spring time home, and fall home. I gather it wasn’t all that much of a ‘home’ to begin with. Betty Drue Jane Tolbert married Robert Duncan Peebles, who was born in Lauderdale County in Center Star. He was born in 1898 and they married in 1917.

Before they were married they would walk around in Courtland. Once while they were walking a bear was there, right there in a yard of a  home that still exists today. It must have scared Drue because she recalled it decades later.

Living a sharecropper life is hard on the whole family. The second eldest daughter, Slena Mae Peebles, told of some of the sharecropping homes where the family lived. For most of them, they would put newspaper on the walls for what little protection against the elements it would provide. One place they lived she said the front porch was high and she and the other children would play under there. The cracks in the walls would let the cold wind right through. And the cracks in the floor would give a view of the chickens pecking under the house. She recalled they did not have toys or dolls to play with; but, rather, would break off twigs at the forks of a branch. The fork would make the legs for their headless, armless, faceless dolls.  I might add that she played the game of Jacks with me when I was little, and I would venture to say that she was the Jacks champeen of the world, so she must have had lots of practice with Preston and Ellen growing up. Sometimes in the spring the girls would pick passion flowers, pick off just the right number of pistils or stamen. Presto, they would have a ballerina doll. Although, I doubt they ever saw a ballerina at that point anyway.

One son, R.D. Peebles, imagined himself a preacher. That is him in his little overalls. He would get up on that stump and place those little hands on his gallouses and preach. He would preach hell fire and damnation. At least as best a little guy was able. On that stump, he held very long sermons, it would seem. His sermons often consisted of the all important biblical admonitions of  ‘dog’ and ‘hairpin.’ Now don’t laugh those were pretty impressive words for a little preacher. R.D.’s oldest daughter, Mary Jane Cochran, asked did I know that her Daddy had filled in as preacher at their church. I had not known that.

At Christmas they were truly excited to get an apple or an orange and maybe sometimes a piece of candy. They didn’t have much, but neither did others they  knew, except for the Wheelers. Miss Annie Wheeler had a real porcelain doll. Drue had evidently seen or heard of it.  Drue would show the girls a Sears and Roebuck catalog and ask them which dress did they like best. Preston, Slena Mae, and Ellen would pick out one they liked and Drue would hand sew them one like it.  They would later put the pages to that Sears & Roebuck catalog to good use with a little crumpling. The girls’ dresses were made of flour sacks, as was their underwear. One day, Drue informed Slena Mae that she didn’t have any more flour sacks to make her any drawers and Slena Mae cried at that thought.

Drue’s first school was the Wheeler Basin Church building situated across the highway from the Joe Wheeler home. Slena Mae talked of going to school at Midway. Her teacher was Mrs Glenice _____ . She also taught me when I went to Colbert County High School. Children were often put to work in the fields of necessity. This limited the schooling that the children received. Preston could pick 300 pounds of cotton a day. Slena Mae and Ellen were not far behind. They also hoed cotton for pennies a day. The cotton picking would yield a whole 75 cents…or was the cotton the whole family picked that amounted to 75 cents per day?

Volumes could be written about the memories of their stories and their life. The photo accompanying this posting was made about 1934. The family had just lost a child of about eighteen months in age, J. W.,  to whooping-cough, iirc. Slena Mae told of the little one’s teeth marks that were still in the wooden eating table after he died. He made the teeth marks during teething as they would sit at the table.

In 1940 Reynolds Metals Aluminum Company opened at Listerhill, Alabama. They hired and trained a lot of local men. Robert Duncan Peebles was one of those men. They had moved to Sheffield. They lived in Sheffield the rest of their lives. After a train crushed into the car as Robert and co-workers headed to Reynolds to work and a long hospital stay, Robert D. Peebles retired from Reynolds Metals Company.  He received a gold watch for his years of service. He was a mason, a bass fiddle and fiddle player, and he was talented in making things with his hands. Robert Peebles is the one that even when he died, all his grandchildren seemed to think they were his favorite.

A high school student interviewed Drue Peebles in the 1980’s for a school project that required an oral history of someone who lived during the Great Depression. When asked what did she remember most about the Great Depression, Drue replied simply. She said, “Being hungry.”