Category Archives: education

on jumping off a truck in the strawberry field

Willie: It might not be so funny, but I can remember picking strawberries, and that’s something I always wanted to do.  I wanted to, you know, ’cause when I was going to school, somebody says, “oh yeah, I went in the strawberry field this morning, and I made so many dollars.”  So I said, “mm mm mm – I  just want to do that one morning.”

So then, when I got old enough to drive, my brother and I would go down to the strawberry field and we’d pick strawberries and come on back home and rushing like everybody else for us to get on the bus, so then we can go tell stories too, that we had picked strawberries that morning.

On this particular day – this was a Saturday. And Ma told me, “Don’t jump off the back of the truck down in the strawberry field.” Because, you know, after we’d get through picking strawberries, we used to always beat it off so the grass and everything, the weeds wouldn’t be high.

I jumped – I didn’t … I jumped off.  Everything was fine. Climbed back on the truck.  And so I jumped off the back of the truck and we were playing and laughing, having a wonderful time. Got back on there, jumped off again.  Didn’t have any problems.  So I says, “I’m gonna try this again.” Climbed on the truck, jumped off – and when I jumped off, I jumped wrong, landed on a stick. Honey, I  yelled and screamed. Ma says, “what’s wrong with you?”  I says, “nothing.”

So when I got home that night, I went to take my bath.  I went in the bathroom and massaged my little muscle in my leg and I said, “Oh my God, please don’t let me have to take my leg off at the knee, ’cause I was doing something Ma didn’t want me to do.”  Man, I thought about that  a few days, and every night I would come in, massage that leg, and massage that leg, put the alcohol on it and then we had Merthiolate and all that stuff.  Man, put that on there, and so one day I was just washing and massaging the leg and I did like this, and a stick about that long came out of my leg.

Lee: An inch and a half?

Willie: Yes.  You think I ever told Ma about that?  Not ever.

Lee (to Christian): You’ve heard that story before?

Christian: Mm mhm.

Willie: No, you think I was gonna … after Ma told me not to do it?  Oh no.  Oh no.  I wanted to make it to my 15th birthday, okay.   ‘Cause she did not play.  Ma and Pa did not play.  When they tell you not to do something, they meant it.  But they didn’t have – you know, just like lots of times, you know, as far as discipline goes, they were disciplinarians, but they simply talked to you and told you what not to do.  We didn’t have all this hitting and carrying on.  It just wasn’t that.  But I tell you, you think I jumped off another truck in the strawberry field?  I don’t jump off a truck now.

from an interview with Prentice Christian and Willie Press, summer 2010.


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“It’s part of growing up on a farm.”

early potato grader

grading potatoes circa 1940 (courtesy Dixon family)

Thom:  Nothing was on pallets back then, like it is now.  Everything was – I mean, we’d take hand trucks and truck ‘em off the truck or truck ‘em on the truck or truck ’em out of the freight car – and nothing palletized, and they’d put down this, for lack of a better word, tar paper on the floor of the trucks, and then you’d have a big conveyor belt going in, and about two heads standing up there, taking whatever size it was, whether it was 50s or 20s or 10s or 5s and stack ‘em, and you always want to stack your ears to the inside so it wouldn’t get caught.

Hume:  You call it air stacking, ‘cause you always wanted the air to be able to move through your load, you know from front to back.  If you stacked it real solid, from side to side, possibility you could go through a heat.  So, you kept where they had the vents in the front of the truck, you would have like little tunnels in between certain bags all the way down that whole row to the back end so air could just pass through.

Thom: That’s the way we had the seed potatoes.  We had ‘em stacked – I remember one time – I wasn’t very old.  And we had unloaded a load of seed potatoes.  We had everything down at the south end of the packing shed down at Capeville and they were over my head, stacked, each 100-pound bag and about that much width between ‘em.  And I was making my way down through to go around and do something, and all of a sudden, I looked down and there was a rat about that long and big as a cat, walking right there, and that just terrified me.

Hume:  Part of growing up on the farm.

Thom: But that made you strong, too, I’ll tell you what.  When Billy Bynum had football practice, and we’d been working on the farm all summer, we were all ready.  Those other guys who hadn’t done anything, hadn’t participated in any activity or exercise …  but David Jones and I – all the farm boys, we were ready to go.

Lee:  Weren’t you telling me … about competitions for lifting?

Thom: Oh yeah, lifting the barrels.  Who could …

Hume: [Or] the front end of the tractors …

Thom:   Uncle Bill could lift the front end of the tractor … .  I could never do that.  And I never had an opportunity – the barrels were before my time.  But it was kind of a competition between all the [men].

Hume: Good natured competition.

Thom:  And if you were the boss-man’s son, you didn’t want to have the reputation of being – you know, “That’s daddy’s boy.  He’s not gonna do anything.”  It’s kind of up to you – whatever they could do, you could do one step better or one step quicker or one step stronger.  So … and that’s generational, ‘cause I’ve heard my daddy and uncle and –

Hume: I was the youngest one, see – I’m like this tall and these guys – they were able to do it, but  I couldn’t pick up anything, until my turn came a few years later.  My daddy – greatest man that walked the earth as far as I’m concerned, next to God, but when he said do something, we just … we had to overdo whatever he said.  I mean you wanted to do it.  As I got older, I was in the Marines in boot camp, and the summer I spent in the boot camp wasn’t as bad as being on the farm during the summer here.  They weren’t bad – I thought, I said, “Lord, I’m on a picnic.”  [laughing]  ‘Cause a lot of the boys I was in the service with, well, they’ve never been away from home before and all that, you know, but it was old stuff – I said, “Lord, I ought to carry these boys home with me.”

From an interview with Hume and Thom Dixon, summer 2010.


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“And the track just stayed busy.”

The trains ran down the Shore here, and they hauled a lot of freight.  They pulled a lot of freight during World War II, government freight or wartime stuff, all types of vehicles that they used in the fields and tanks.  I’ve seen trains go down with tanks on them.

It would take the train a half-hour to get by the [school], out of sight of the window of the school over to Bloxom. I was on the west side of the building, where I could see the railroad track during the wartime, and … all I had to do was turn my head like that and look right at all of that wartime stuff that was traveling.  And the track just stayed busy.  I don’t know where all the trains went. I don’t know how they got all of it across that Bay at the other end and on and off with those floats that they had to float in there.  … You can’t hardly perceive it in your mind, if you could have seen the amount of stuff that went down on [the train].

I had my aunt and uncle in Birdsnest that were the postmaster and the assistant postmaster down there.  And I used to go down to visit them, and one of my trips going down, daddy put me on the train.  I had never been on a train before.  I knew the train; I saw the train regularly.  … I was down in the grammar grades.

Bloxom is where he put me on.  And I got on there, and he watched me, and the train took off and went on south, and I was sitting there, and I was sitting there with my back to the south.  The train was going south, and I was sitting with my back that direction, actually looking backwards.  And I was enjoying myself, looking out the window.  Didn’t know what it was all about, but I was going becuase I was on a train for the first time in my life.

Somewhere between here and Birdsnest, about half-way down I think, another train was on the other track, so the sidewire was sitting right up next to the other train coming this way.  And when we’re going down and this other train coming up, and right of of nowhere in between my window and that other window, in between them two tracks, wasn’t very much room, maybe this much room is all it was between them cars, going like this, that train come up beside me, right beside my window and blanked that off dark, with that movement like that and that roar. I thought I’d been eat right down.  I figured it was all over with.  I never will forget that.

From an interview with Pierce B. Taylor, Jr., spring 2010.

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on turkeys, eggs, and afternoon naps

William Justis, circa 1925 (courtesy of Thornton / Justis family)

Daddy raised chickens and he sold eggs. And he said that he didn’t go by the market price on eggs. He said no egg was worth more than five cents, and he wasn’t gonna charge anybody more than five cents an egg. So that was 60 cents a dozen, and he sold chicken eggs for 60 cents a dozen, and he coudn’t supply all of his customers. They all wanted eggs.

He had a little flock of chickens, and he had one that was a pet. That chicken was the cutest thing. He would go out to feed them and, honey, she was at the head of the flock. She ran up to him just like she knew him by name. He loved that old hen.

Mother … didn’t raise turkeys after they moved up by the railroad track, but she raised turkeys down at White’s Neck, and one day … a storm came up in the afternoon, and she had this little flock of turkeys that were kind of back of the house down this roadway that – they were a right little old distance from the house. She had a little coop down there, and a storm came up in the afternoon, and honey, she ran off there kiting it, because she was afraid her little turkeys would get drowned. They were outside.  And she did get wet before she got back to the house, but when I saw her coming – I was standing out on the back porch. The back porch was screened in, and I thought, “Oh, Mother’s going to get wet.”  And, sure enough, she did get wet and when she came up the steps, I opened the door, held the door open for her, and when I hit that door, I got stung – lightning struck – I got stung and I kind of shook a little bit, you know.  But it didn’t bother me. It soon wore off. But I got her in the house, ’cause it was getting stormy – lightning and thunder and stuff going on, and I didn’t want her out in that, but she got her little turkeys in.  She didn’t want them to get wet.  They were the prettiest little things, those little fuzzy things.

Frances (my sister) said that, when I was little, I would bother the egg basket.  Mother would keep the egg basket in the pantry, and the pantry opened on the porch, and I would go in there, and I would bother the eggs.  She told me – I guess it was so – she said they got so that they would put some feathers in the egg basket.  And I was scared of feathers, so I stopped bothering the eggs.

I guess I was four or five years old.  Mother used to put me upstairs in the afternoon to take a nap, and I didn’t like that afternoon nap – oh, that was terrible. And she would put me upstairs, and this bedroom window opened so that I could see the yard, and we had this orchard out back that had peaches and apples and plums and all sorts of good things in it. Mother and Frances would go out in the afternoon and they’d walk around the yard, and they’d go to the orchard, you know, and they’d pick some fruit, and oh, they were just having a ball.  And I thought, oh if I could just get out there with them.  I didn’t understand why she put me up there – I had to have that nap. But she would – I just had to have that nap.  She’d put me up there, and she thought I was asleep, bless her heart, but I was watching every step they made.

But my, it was so different then.  I think children have missed so much.  So many children don’t know – they don’t realize did the egg come first or the chicken, you know?  I don’t guess it makes too much difference, but to me, I cherish it.

from an interview with Ruth Justis Thornton, summer 2009.

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“Put the plant in this way …”

Frances Latimer, circa 1978

Frances Latimer, Cobb Station farm, circa 1958 (courtesy of the Latimer family)

[Daddy] hired a person when he could, but there were times when he couldn’t hire anybody and it was my mom and my oldest brother and daddy. There wasn’t much help.

Somebody didn’t come to work one day and Daddy wanted me to work on a transplanter, and I was playing the piano. I was grouchy and sullen. I was a teenager. So I went out. And he said, “okay, sit here. Put the plant in this way, and it’ll go in the ground.” I said, “okay.” I turned it that way.

So, all of the plants were – the leaves were down and the roots were up. And he turned around and he looked and every other plant, alternate plants, the roots were up, ’cause there was somebody else riding it with me, right?

He knew it was me. So he stopped, and he said, “Bea.” He said, “Turn it this way.” He never raised his voice. I’m serious. I never heard him yell. I never heard him say ugly things. So, I said, “okay.” I put them in roots up …

You could tell if you looked [at what you were doing]. I wasn’t looking. Did you want me to look? The roots were up, the leaves were down. And he got off the tractor that time and was serious and he had plants in his hands. He said, “I never beat you with a plant. I never beat you. But I’m going to today. Now you’re not stupid. You can do this. Put them in the right way.” “Yes, Daddy.” I put them in the right way.

Putting them in the right way meant that I knew what I was doing before. I hadn’t really planned to do it, but after I started it, it seemed like fun.

from an interview with Frances Latimer, summer 2009

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… and that’s the way she taught us.

Rhoda Dalby Young, 1935 (courtesy of the Dalby/Young family)

They had a two-room schoolhouse [in Westover, Maryland]. In fact, it had been a big two-room – a double one – but we had our school in one of [them]. The other was used for library books and special supplies. Miss Mary Wetsel – she was a Catholic – and she taught five grades.

I [started] the second grade [in Lower Northampton County] and had Ms. Hurt. … and that’s where I had my first little boyfriend. Billy … he gave me a little cage with a key on it that had a little bird in it, and you’d turn that and the little bird would sing. … But in the second grade Billy called Ms. Hurt one day, and he had a bracelet and it had “Rhoda Dalby” on it. His mother had bought it for him. He was asking her to fasten it for him, and she was all smiles there doing that. But anyway, he asked me if I wanted to wear it, and I said, “No, I don’t want to wear it.”

But anyway, going back to the one-room schoolhouse, there would be, as you go in the front, we had a bucket of water on the table in the back with a cup, and we had two little johns outside. That way was the boys, and that way was the girls, and I was in the second grade, so I was not in the first aisle as you came in.  That was the first grade.  The second was the second grade. And the last – there were not that many in the second grade, so the row was finished out with the third graders. 

And then there was a big pot-belly stove filled with coal, and they had a zinc thing around it to keep it from – the children from falling against it.  So, the other side, you went to the fourth on the far wall and then the fifth against that stove. 

She was fabulous. She was an old maid – Miss Mary – but she was sweet to us. There was a big blackboard in the back of the room and a long, like a church bench in front of it, so she would take grade one and maybe with grade one, she’d have a thing up there with birds. “How many birds? Did you see a Robin?” “One” or whatever, and that’s the way she taught us.  

And then, of course, we would progress and we three little girls would go to visit her in the summertime.  I remember, one year, she went across the country, and so we went and visited with her and sat and listened to her story about going across the country.  We were like that.  

…  Mother sewed, so we had little dresses, not many, but she made everything we wore.  We would go and visit up and down in Westover … everybody [would say] “those little Dalby girls” but we enjoyed life there.

from an interview with Rhoda Dalby Young, summer 2009

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