when a hundred dollars cash money at Christmas would last until Spring

Richard: I heard my father say when he was a boy – he was born in 1900 – when he was a boy, his daddy said if he had a hundred dollars cash money at Christmastime, he was alright until Spring – on a hundred dollars. Isn’t that crazy? Only thing they had to buy was kerosene …

Nora Lee: … flour, sugar …

Richard: …flour, sugar, and doctor bill once in a while, which was probably $5. I mean, when you’ve lived as long as we have … it’s just mind-boggling to see how far $100 goes now. I mean it’s weekly [now] …

We lived on a farm. We got our mail from Pastoria. … Dad let us go to the store most nights. The men always talked around the old country stove, and I’m talking during the ’30’s now, during the Depression, and us boys played Dead Mule and Lost Track and Hide and Seek and all the other games boys and girls play. So, it was a good life.

We didn’t have any money. Nobody had money.

Nora Lee: Nobody, so everybody was poor.

Richard: The store was two miles through the woods. I made many a trip out there with a dozen or two dozen eggs or a piece of fat meat to get mamma’s groceries, and if it was 15 cents leftover, you got what you’d call a due bill. The store master, the storekeeper, gave you this little piece of paper that – owed you 15 cents for a side of meat or a dozen eggs.

That was the hub, yeah. That’s how you – well, you bought everything you needed. You bartered for most of it with eggs or a side of fat meat.

On Saturday night [when we went into Parksley] … we got a quarter. Fifteen cents for the movie. And ten cents for an ice cream cone. Ice cream cone was about a nickel or a Coke or whatever, but it was ten cents to throw away. That was what we got. We got 25 cents Saturday night.

Nora Lee: That was the highlight of your week.

Richard: For working all week. And my job at home … As soon as the boys got big enough to do anything, the boys took over. My brother milked the cow. I never did have to milk the cow, but my job was tend to the woodpile. Keep the wood split and fill the woodbox up when I came home from school. So, that’s kind of quaint, isn’t it?

Of course, you’re talking about ten cents for a gallon of kerosene or fifteen cents or something like that. I don’t know how much a pack of cigarettes was then, but everybody smoked – well, most people rolled their own.

Nora Lee: Cheaper.

Richard: Gosh, a bag of Bull Durham was five or ten cents, and that was a right good size – would make a lot of cigarettes. … It has a string on it that you pulled the string and that tightened it up. When you pulled it open, you could dump it out in your cigarette. And some people, boy you talk about – they could roll a cigarette …

We entertained ourselves if Daddy let us have [time off]. Saturday afternoon most of the time was ours, and we boys – we played in the creek and swam and, like boys will do, did all kinds of throwing mud and mud baths and such as that. There really wasn’t anything real exciting that went on ’til Saturday night when we went to Parksley.

from an interview with Richard and Nora Lee Parks, summer 2009


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Filed under economy, entertainment, food

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