on soldiers on the farm during WWII and fresh fish cakes

During the heaviest part when there were U-boats and other boats down the coastline here, the fort down to Kiptopeake, right down to the Cape, had a batch of troops in it down there. In the afternoons before dark, winter and summer, they would bring two soldiers up, drop them off on the hill over to the house over there, to mother and daddy’s, and they spent the night there – one of them on duty at all times.  They shifted around.  They brought their knapsacks.  They had a paper bag lunch that was packed down there for them to bring for their midnight snacks.  And one little thermos bottle of hot coffee, and this was some nights when it was snowing, raining, sleeting, not fit for an animal to be out, much less a human being.

They would be dropped off out of a plain Jeep with no top on the thing, most of the time, that brought them up from clean down to the Cape up here.  Now on that same Jeep, they would have started with [soldiers] for other creeks; they did the same thing that they did to this creek here – two at the front end of the creek, the farthest out the creek – … two soldiers, same way, some of the other creeks were placed that way, too.  I don’t know all of them and where they were placed at, but I know they were … there.

We had a cornstack over there that wasn’t in use.  I went in there, and daddy had a lot of bags throwed up under there – we replaced all of them bags in there and made plain old flat bunks out of them, and that was a place for them to go into and at least – wasn’t supposed to be but one in there at a time – to lay down on.  And it was out of the weather.  They didn’t get wet in there, but I wouldn’t say about cold air drawing through there, because it did.

Mother would, most of the time in the evening … we got to the point where we learned the boys.  They weren’t always the same two, but a lot of times it would be a series … it would be the same two boys that would be stopping in there, coming in there overnight to watch on the hill.  And she would fix them hot sandwiches and have hot coffee for them and – if it was too bad, the kitchen was open to ‘em with the woodstove going all night in there, and they were invited into the house. As I said, it wouldn’t be fit for man nor beast to stand on that hill down there, in the winter months down there all night long in a snowstorm or whatever, ice, sleet.

But I remember one thing that some of them enjoyed, which I always enjoyed myself, … [was] salted fish. …  Daddy would soak it out and get it fresh, and it had a little bit of relish from the salt into it, but it wasn’t  that much salt into it after he’d freshen it out like he had, and she would make fresh fish cakes out of that, and she’d give them boys fresh fish cakes, and they thought it was nothing else like that.  And I was just like those boys were, the soldiers – there was nothing like those fish cakes.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under food, world war II

on making do and loving bananas

I remember hearing my grandfather say how much money he lost that he had in the bank, you know, during the Depression.  I don’t remember how much it was, but it seemed like a big amount to me at that time.

They had a bank on Deal’s Island.  And that bank just closed during the Depression.

It was very depressing, very depressing times, but people in that day and time … most everybody had their own vegetables and they had … well, my grandfather raised hogs.  He’d always kill a hog every fall, have his own hams and sausages and all that.  They had a lot of their own meats.  They managed to make do with what they had.

We had a corner grocery store, but it wasn’t a whole lot.  I can remember, very seldom we ever had bananas.  Every once in a while, my grandfather would go to Princess Anne on the bus and get these things that we couldn’t get at the corner grocery.  Once in a while, he’d bring bananas home.  Well, I love bananas, but I didn’t have that many of them, and then, when I’d go to Baltimore during the summer to visit, my father and aunts up there, they had bananas.  Well, I thought that was the greatest thing there ever was.

That was so wonderful to have bananas when you wanted it.  And, in the city at that time, they had what they called hucksters going up and down the alley and calling out what they had on their wagons.  They had a horse and wagon, pulling all the fruit and vegetables and whatever.  And you could just hear them going up and down the alley, hooting and hollering out what they had on their wagon.

And I remember one aunt especially, she would always get bananas if I was there.  She always had plenty of bananas.  And they tasted so good to me.  It was a treat for me to have bananas.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.

From an interview with Una Holland, summer 2010.

Leave a comment

Filed under economy, food

on foods that cramp the tongue

They had two black heart cherry trees and then they had another cherry tree – I don’t know what the name of it was.  It was a white cherry.  And my grandmother made the best desserts out of those cherries.

She used to make something called cherry roly-poly. And then she’d fix some kind of sauce to put on top of it.  Oh my gosh, that would cramp your tongue.  That was so good.

And, of course, everything then – there were no instant mixes. Everything … I’ve seen her many a time get up and make biscuits in the morning for breakfast.  Bake them in the woodstove oven.

And then, on Saturdays, she would always make up yeast rolls.  [She] didn’t have a yeast cake.  There was some way they would … well, they did have a yeast cake, but they’d boil a white potato or something … white potato has something to do with it.  And she would make all these rolls up there for Sunday dinner.

Most of the time, you would have chicken – either baked chicken or fried chicken. Young biddies come off or young chickens come off in the spring, and you’d have fried chicken.  But in the winter, you’d have baked chicken.  And the baked chickens then – it was your laying hens, and they always had a whole cluster of little eggs inside and everybody wanted those eggs.  You know, when you bake a chicken, all those little eggs inside.  She was a good cook.

She used to make butter, make her own butter.  And then, she’d have the milk – she’d leave it setting here, would turn the clabber and honey. Those clabber biscuits would melt in your mouth.  She’d use clabber to make her biscuits. They were some kind of good.

I used to love clabber. Did you ever eat clabber? Probably not. … It reminds me of yogurt.  You know, the yogurts you have now, except this was – this was the real thing. The milk set out until it soured and then it turned to clabber.  And then you’d eat it, put a little sugar on it. [It was] nice and solid, pretty good.

From an interview with Una Holland, summer 2010.

Leave a comment

Filed under animals, food

“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.

1 Comment

Filed under education, transportation, world war II

“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.

2 Comments

Filed under animals, economy, food, technology, transportation

“everything we did was outdoors …”

I played every sport in high school. I didn’t have to work out, because I was in shape.  Like they do now?  We didn’t work out.  I was hard as nails, ’cause … we worked all the time.

I played baseball.  I played football.  I played basketball.  I did a little boxing.  … I played all the sports, but we worked that in.  I’d play baseball and then walk home from school.  There ain’t no way to get home; we walked home.  Ain’t no bus to take us nowhere.

When we played football, we didn’t have no money to buy uniforms.  The school didn’t buy no uniforms. We had, I think it was five helmets and we didn’t have no shoulderpads.  We used sweatshirts.  We put on about three or four sweatshirts.  They knew – ’cause the backfield had helmets and one or two on the line – they knew what plays we were going to make because we’d have to switch our helmets around. And the football field at the end of the game – it looked like a rag field, because they’d grab you  and you’d lose your sweatshirts.

We did have baseball suits though.  I don’t think we bought our uniforms.  …  But basketball we played – we didn’t have no gyms … we played on the dirt.  We played outside.  That’s why we played in the spring of the year.  I mean, it was dirt courts.  We played tennis too.  Tennis … [the school] didn’t have no sport of tennis; [but] you could play tennis.  I used to like to play tennis.

I don’t know why they didn’t build any gyms, but we played outdoors and everything we did was outdoors, so I guess they thought that’s where we were supposed to [play].

From an interview with Bev Fletcher, spring 2010.

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment

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.

2 Comments

Filed under animals, economy, progress, technology, transportation