Transcribed by Kathleen Hastings Whitlock
September 8, 1949
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We closed our last article with an account of our early home, its construction, etc. We resume with some events of our earliest recollection. The editor was born on July 8, 1891, a hot, sultry Wednesday morning about sunrise. Dr. S.C. Bridgewater was the attending physician. I weighed nine pounds at birth and was normal in every respect although some may think that I was weak mentally and never recovered from same. I was given the name of Stephen Calvin Gregory, for my father’s father, who bore the same name. He was born on October 30, 1827, and married his third cousin, Miss Sina Gregory, when he was about twenty-five years of age. My father, who was the fourth child born to this couple, was born Jan. 4, 1862. My grandfather, Stephen Calvin Gregory, had an uncle, Stephen Gregory, a brother of his father, Major Gregory. Just where the name Calvin, came from we do not know, as our grandfather was the first of our family who wore it so far as we have been able to learn, and we have traced the family back through 1,100 years of time.
The first of the Gregory family to come to America was Richard Gregory, who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1620. We have the name of the ship on which he crossed the Atlantic to America from North Ireland, but had previously come to Ireland from Scotland where the family originated on the shores of Loch Lomand in the ninth century.
But returning to the scenes of our early life, we will relate a few of our earliest recollections. The very first event that we can recall took place when we were two years and eight months old, which was in March of 1893. Our uncle, Bill Bob Gregory, had a big ___working and our father and mother and two children attended. We remember that our father had to sit in a low window, with his two sons in his lap, one on either knee. As we sat thus, we could see into the kitchen where some woman, name long ago forgotten, if we ever knew it, was kneeding a huge batch of dough. At home, our mother never rolled such a mass of dough and the size perhaps caused us to remember it. One other event connected with this same happening was that of remembering that planks were used across chairs to provide extra seats at the table as the large number of men ate. We had never seen such an arrangement before and it has come down to us vividly over a period of more than 55 years.
We recall numerous events of the months that followed. Some weeks later our father made an old-fashioned A harrow. He had no blacksmith’s forge or furnace and had to heat the teeth in the fireplace. Our mother took a pair of long-handled tongs and passed the hot teeth out the window to our father who drove them into the new-made harrow beams.
For many years, we were certain that we could remember an event which took place on Christmas day following our birth in July the year before, but we finally had to give this up because it was too fantastic and unreasonable for belief. We have since come to the conclusion that the relating of this event by our parents had been so firmly fixed in our childist mind that we were certain we could remember its occurrence. The event was as follows: On Christmas morning in 1891, our father and mother took their firstborn and started to the home of the grandfather above mentioned. On Mace’s Hill, which stood just above our old home, the little party met a stranger who asked in a rather odd voice: “Would you like to hear a Chreesmus goon’?” By this, he meant gun. Our parents replied that they had no objection, whereupon the stranger fired some kind of gun that made a loud report. In our vivid imagination, we still seem to see that scene of nearly 58 years ago, but we must have been mistaken as we were then only five and one half months old. We even see now in our imagination the sun rising up over the huge hill, the stranger dressed in black clothing, a rather small man, who was going toward the home we had just left. Even our father and mother, both of them young and the writer in the arms of his father, appear to us as vividly as if these events were only a week ago. But we evidently heard the story from time to time and our imagination got the better of the facts involved. Even the very place appears to us and yet we were mistaken as to actually remembering this event.
As a baby the writer was said to have been a fine looking “slick-headed” youngster, but 58 years of time’s wear and tear have changed him much and we would not make one claim to any physical beauty whatever. On the other hand, our Roman nose did not develop until we were in our early teens and this has greatly lessened any claims we could have ever made to “looks.” We have our first picture, made in a school group in 1899, which was 50 years ago. We expect to print this picture in an early issue of the Times so that our readers may see how “woefully” time has affected this baby of 1891 and the school boy of 1899.
Our earl years were happy ones, although we had but little of the goods of this world. We had plenty to eat, good, substantial food, well-cooked and prepared by our mother who was perhaps the best cook we ever knew. Her reputation along this line still lives, although she has been gone into eternity for nearly 37 years. Our father grew his own wheat and corn, fattened his own meat and grew most of the vegetables used by the family. We bought only a few items from the stores and they were such things as could not well be made at home or grown on the farm, as coffee, sugar, shoes, and clothing of one kind or another. Our father made the first pair of shoes I ever wore and they were perhaps not very good looking footwear. Later, we had brass-toed shoes and one pair a year was all we could expect or obtain. When these shoes gave out, we went barefooted and early the next winter we had another pair of the same kind of shoes.
We remember very vividly one fall afternoon at “molasses-making time” we wanted to go to the place where our father was putting up or “sweetening” for the months ahead. We had no shoes at all and had grown until we were large enough to wear our mother’s shoes. In our early years, we were nearly fifty per cent foot and our mother’s shoes fitted fairly well. So that fall night, as the cool winds swept down from the north, we put on our mother’s shoes and struck out for the sorghum mill, about a mile down the hollow at the home of Uncle George Bennett, who had married our father’s own aunt, Jane. We knew nothing about the “skimmings holes” about all sorghum mills, and we never did look very well about where we were going. On this night, we walked into a “skimmings hold” that reached nearly to our knees and came out of the hole all covered with the sticky mess and with a heavy heart for we had been the object of laughter of nearly all present. We slipped away and memory informs us that we had a bitter cry over our “downfall”. We were tender hearted and crying came easily to us.
But childish troubles were always quickly over and we soon forgot our misfortune in getting into the “skimmings hole,” as we took a cup of hot, foamy molasses, whittled out a rude paddle from a stalk of sorghum cane and dipped it repeatedly into the sweet, toothsome syrup that only country boys of the years gone by really enjoyed. We have too many sweets today and the average child does not care for the hot foam from the evaporator of 50 years ago. In that far distant day, sweets were not plentiful and plain country sorghum, with a mixture of good country butter, and hot biscuits were perhaps as good food as a child nearly ever ate. One thing that a lack of sweets brought to a lot of children 50 years ago were better teeth than we have today when sweets have cause so many children to lose their teeth to decay at an early age. The writer still has a good set of teeth for which he is very grateful and which have served him for nearly half a century. Speaking of a lack of sweets, we had a craving for additional sweets that many a time we broke open the beans of the old honey locust or thorn tree and tasted the very sweet substance to be found in such beans. We have been told in later life that these beans were the same kind as those on which the prodigal son would “fain have filled his bell.” In addition to eating locust beans, we used to begin to chew the cane form which sorghum is made as soon as it began to get sweet, sometimes taking a whole stalk of sorghum, and “twisting and chewing” it, would soon have the juice of a whole cane extracted and nothing left but the “pummies.” We also used to thin a lot of corn. We have pulled up many a stalk of corn, broken off the roots and then chewed the white stalk of the corn just above the roots. The stalk is very, very sweet. We sometimes overdid this and the sick stomach that follows an “overdose of white cornstalks” is something that has lingered with us for 50 years or more. We had but little candy then, mostly peppermint and so rare that we can still recall with pleasure seeing our father coming back from Dixon Springs on the old family mare, Old Nell, with perhaps a dime’s worth of candy in his pocket. How good that candy was and how soon it was gone! Ice cream was then unknown and we never saw any ice cream until about 1910. We had some “fancy” candy as it was then called and one form was called “kisses,” which had with it sentimental verses of the kind that sweethearts might want for each other.
One of the boys of other years, who is a relative of ours, once went to Carthage and bought some ice cream in the first cone he had ever seen. He ate the cream down as far as he could with his tongue, then took his pocket knife and scraped out the remainder. Then he returned to the merchant, holding out the empty cone and asking him to refill it. We forbear to print his name, but we have an idea he will read these lines. Our father had many bees and we always had honey, but somehow honey is never much enjoyed by those who have an abundant supply of it at all times. We want what we do not have. However, when that honey turned into a snowy white as it did after being subjected to extremely cold weather, it was very fine and we enjoyed it immensely. Many events connected with our father’s bees have come down through the years. We will try to give some of them in a later article.
We do not expect all our readers to peruse these items that deal with a long gone past, but we believe that some will. For their sakes and because we enjoy giving them, we will try to present others from time to time.