Category Archives: transportation

on wartime shortages and ration books

There was a shortage of hunting ammunition down here on the farm. I hunted. Daddy hunted. We had quail, rabbit, squirrel, duck – all of it, but you had to be very careful, you had just a very little bit of ammunition. I mean, you prized a handful of ammunition. It was to be watched and taken care of.

WW II rationing stamp book

WWII ration book (courtesy of Taylor family)

During the war, we had … stamp books.  We were allotted so many stamps for certain things during the war. The books that I can remember, they [were for] … coffee, sugar, cigarettes, beef, tires, gas …

There were no cars available whatsoever during the war.  Most of them had been froze on the first day of the war … by Roosevelt, the President, and daddy was lucky enough to find one new car in the middle of a war, and he had to go through an Act of Congress in Accomack to get a permit to get that car. He hunted from Cape Charles to Philadelphia up in a storage house on the fourth or fifth floor to get one old Chevrolet – it wasn’t old, it was a brand new one – but to get a Chevrolet automobile. I think that must have been the last one on the East Coast. But he got it anyway, and we were fortunate in that respect, because our automobile was getting worn down.

From an interview with Pierce B. Taylor, Jr., 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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“We growed pretty well every crop you could grow.”

Farmers … didn’t have big acreage, but they always had something coming off.  … Strawberries was the first crop – they come off in the spring.  Then, we have string beans.  We grew two crops of them a year, string beans.  Then, white potatoes.  Then, sweet potatoes.  Then string beans … so we had about five or six different crops, vegetable crops.

We only grew corn enough for to feed the mules.  It was all ear corn.  You had to pick all your corn by hand.  In other words, we break the ear off and shuck it and throw it in the heat and then we pick it up and put it in the horse cart and … then we carry it to the stack, dump it up and then throw it by hand in the stack.  We always picked, went through it, and anything –  little, teeny ears we call nubbins – we fed that to the pigs.   Of course, they were meat for the table in the wintertime.  We’d kill about four or five hogs every year – for family, you know.

So we grew about five, six crops. Strawberries – [my daddy] generally had about three or four acres, and that’s about all he could get picked.  He had to pick them every day.

And then … string beans – they’d grow probably ten acres, maybe more. And then Irish potatoes – he’d have 15, 20 acres of that – depends on what size farm they were growing, but my daddy – he would probably have more than that.

And the sweet potatoes – they usually have 25 acres of them, because all of it’s hand work.  You know, you had to plow them out and scratch them out and throw them in the heat.  Irish potatoes – we actually graded them in the field and put them in barrels and then we shipped them by freight car and carried them through the station about seven barrels, eight barrels at a time.  A barrel of Irish potatoes weighs about 165 pounds.  A lot of the men could handle them by themselves.  But usually two of them would pick it up and put it on the wagon.

… Tomatoes – I forgot about that.  We grew a lot of tomatoes and picked green tomatoes, and then we picked the red tomatoes and carried them to the canning factory.  … There was a canning factory in every town … one in Hallwood, one in New Church, three in Pocomoke, one on Chincoteague, one in Greenbackville, one in New Church.  I think there was one in Stockton.

I heard my daddy say – this was in the 30s – he sold ’em for five cent a basket, a five-eight basket.  So I mean, you know, people don’t know what hard times are.

From an interview with Bev Fletcher, spring 2010.

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on horses, mules, and tractors

At the plow, courtesy of the Mason/Holland family

Franklin: You had two mules or two horses, either one.  One of them would work down in the furrow and the other one worked where it hadn’t been plowed.  It would probably be eight inches or ten inches lower, and that’s what we used until … one day people were getting tractors around here and, of course, we boys wanted tractors.  We got tired of walking.

The man who sold horses and mules come around and told my father, he said, “Marion, that’s the first mistake you ever made in your life – trying to buy a tractor.  Tractors gonna be the ruination of agriculture.”

It was the ruination of him, because he was out of business.  We had, that day, we had five mules or horses that we traded in on a tractor.

Everett: We had more than that.  I think we had four horses and Pappy died – Grandfather – and he left us three, so we had seven horses then.

Franklin: Probably did.

Everett: Didn’t have but five stables to put ’em into.  Pop went and traded three of them … no, traded five of them.

Franklin: Traded five of them in one day for this tractor.

Lee: So you could actually trade horses for a tractor?

Everett: Well, you had to pay some.

Franklin: Oh, yeah … they wouldn’t allow you much for those horses, ’cause tractors were coming into the world.  That was … that was around ’35, somewhere in there, wasn’t it?

Everett: Close to – I was about 15.

Franklin: And a tractor was only … it was $600 or $700 for a brand new tractor.  And now – they’re $150,000.

Everett: I think that was around ’38 or ’39 when we got that tractor, wasn’t it?

Franklin: It could have been.  I walked a long time.

Everett: One tractor could do more than twenty horses could do.  … You worked all the year for the horses. You work them in the morning, and you come to the house at lunchtime and you had to pump water – hand pump – and they could drink and drink and drink and drink, and you had to pump all that water and then you had to feed ’em before you could ever go eat your lunch. And the time you went in there and grabbed a little bit to eat, you had to go back and hook ’em back up because it was time to go to work again.  They got a good rest; we didn’t get none.

Franklin: Well, at the same time, you’re going back from breakfast, the first thing you had to do was go in there and feed these mules / horses, so they could eat, and then you had to milk the cows before you come back and eat yours while the mules / horses eat theirs.  One way they had it easier than we did.

Everett: We had to clean the stable about every week.

Franklin: Oh yeah, they had to be clean.

Everett: Pine shats I believe we used.

Franklin: Yeah, pine needles.

from interview with brothers Everett and Franklin Holland, fall 2009.

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on horses and mules

Everett: [We had] horses mostly.

Franklin: Mostly horses. They were cheaper to buy.

Everett: Work ’em six days a week and then we’d ride ’em on Sundays.

Franklin: That was a pleasure. We’d go to church Sunday afternoon and we’d ride the horses that morning, that was going out to Beaverdam Church, and build fires in the wood stove. That was a pleasure.

Audrey: What was the name of that horse? He used to come see me on a horse.  That was before we were married.  I’d hear this horse going bump, bump, bump … and I’d look down and here he’d come on that horse.  It was white with grey.

Franklin: We called it the grey horse.  It was mean as a dog.

Audrey: I lived how far from you?

Franklin: Twelve.  Twelve miles, I guess.  … I’d go through the woods and that kind of stuff. Probably eight miles, something like that.

Lee: And horses were cheaper to buy?

Franklin: Horses were cheaper than mules.

Lee: Why?

Franklin: I often wondered why myself, but a good pair of mules were worth twice as much as a pair of horses.  One thing, horses were more plentiful.

Everett: Mules were dumber, I think.  They go on and do their work, where a horse is getting around it somehow or another.  I remember when I was a child, the old horse there cultivating the corn – and he’d get to the end and see he learned that it was hard to hold the handle, the collar, and he’d put his foot over the chain.  You had to go down there and unhook the chain and put it around.  He’d get time – he’d kill time and he’d get to rest up.

Franklin: That’s the only rest they got, when they made a turn.  Each end of the field, they’d slow right down and make a job of the turn. That’s when they got to rest up.

from an interview with brothers Everett and Franklin Holland & with Franklin’s wife Audrey, fall 2009.

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“I guess you know how to drive, don’t you?”

I was driving a Model T truck in the field. They were loading ’em up, you know, and going along the rows where the barrels were, when I was ten years old. I was ten in May, and in June, July, we were digging those potatoes. I didn’t drive it out on the road then, but I drove it. I was driving before I was old enough, old enough to have a license.

We only had one state trooper in Accomack County, and that was Harry Parker. He lived at Accomac, but his wife and my grandfather were first cousins. That’s right. And he told Papa one day, said “that boy is driving, and I know it. And I know he’s got no license. Now I’m not gonna pull him because I know he’s got no license. But if he gets in trouble, I got to carry the law.”

So, one day, I decided to go down there and get my license. Well, I wasn’t eligible to go down there, see. I went by myself, and I went in the office at the Accomac courthouse. That little book, I knew that. He didn’t even have to ask me, I could give him all the answers. And he went through all that and he said, “well I guess now we’ll have to see how you do driving. Drive around the block and see how you park between the sticks.”

He had never smiled a bit – he made a good officer. He could scare people just with that look, you know. The only time he smiled, when he got ready to get in the car, he was on the passenger side. He said, “I guess you know how to drive, don’t you?” And I said, “Yes sir, I think so.” I couldn’t help [but] laugh – he was laughing too. ‘Cause he knew I’d been driving, you know, a long time. I rode around the block and parked back. I usually parked pretty good in a parking place. And I got my license. And guess how much it cost then? I think that was about ’36 or ’35. Fifty cents.

A lot of people were driving that didn’t have them. But that was wrong for me to ride down to Accomac to the courthouse and park right in front of there with no more license than – well my dog’s out here somewhere – than that dog has.

from an interview with Norman Mason, summer 2009

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