Transcribed By Pamela Vick
November 17, 1949 - Reprinted October 28, 1976
We closed our last article with some statements relative to the remembrances most of us have of the brighter and happier things of life, speaking particularly of our early school days. On the tragic side of the picture are numerous events that can be recalled by an effort. One of these deals with the poverty of many of the school children of other days. We recall a very poor boy and girl, the children of the same mother. They were extremely poor and we can still recall the very, very poor clothing they wore. Perhaps the thing that lingers more clearly in the picture was their food. They brought but little to school for the midday meal except sorghum molasses and corn bread. In spite of the shadow that hanged over their lives, and for which they were in no way at all responsible, both seemed to enjoy life, even though they were deprived of the love and care of a father. The boy particularly was of a sunny jovial disposition. We recall one of his “stunts” at school after nearly 50 years have come and gone. This boy had a rather large mouth and he would put on a show for the other children by placing two large, and often dirty, handkerchiefs in his mouth at one time and then close his mouth.
We can go now to a spot within two feet of where he once put on his “show.” He grew up to be honest and a hard-working young man. Later he married and his wife soon faded from the picture of life and went down to an early grave. She left one son, who is today a highly respected and successful citizen. This “show boy” was drafted into the other World War and gave all he had for his country, and his burial place was never disclosed by the Army. Just He will find him in the resurrection at the last day, for our school mate and playmate of 50 years ago, was a devoted young saint of God.
The girl above mentioned once did some small act of disobedience toward the teacher. The teacher made a mistake and punished the girl with the worst whipping we ever saw administered to a girl at school. She cried until her eyes bled, and our sympathy and that of the entire school went out to this poor unfortunate child, who perhaps might have been stubborn in her refusal to heed all the rules of the teacher. The teacher was a good man, but he made a mistake in this. Late in the day he gave the poor whipped child a piece of money to somehow make up for the whipping she had received. She and the teacher have both gone to stand in the presence of God who knows our errors, failures, and mistakes, and who is a merciful Heavenly Father.
The first of our early school mates to “go the way of all the earth,” was Charlie Nunley, who was two or three years older than the writer. He was very strong in body, active on the school ground, a leader in almost all sports of 50 years ago in the country schools and free and independent and apparently without fear. How the writer did envy him his splendid physique, his poise, his lack of fear and other qualities that we did not possess. But alas, Charlie was not destined to live long. He was the first of our school mates of the closing years of the last century to die. His death was quite tragic, taking place on a dark night in the fall of 1908 when he was shot to death by a Negro named Woodfork, who went to the pen for life for his crime. We were at that time in school in Bowling Green and heard of his death with sadness that has lingered for more than 40 years.
We recall many small and now trivial incidents that filled our childish heart with grief and at times with agony. We were terribly bashful, a thing we finally conquered after many, many years. We went one day into the school house when a lad of about twelve, at the noon hour, to find a group of girls writing the names of boys on the blackboard. One of the girls said: “Here is -----’s sweetheart,” and wrote our own name. It almost killed the writer and we rushed from the school house as if it were on fire, our face red and burning and with confusion making every feature. We realize now that this was a mistake, for if we had not taken things so seriously, we would have gotten by in a far better way. We did know then that to take a thing “as hard we did,” was a sure way of having it thrust upon us continually. So from that day for weeks afterward, we were the continual “butt” of every other person in school. We are sorry to say that we developed a hatred in our heart for the innocent girl, who was in no way whatever responsible for our “sad plight.” We recall that larger boys would grab hold of our hand or arm and try to hold the “bashfulest boy” in school until the girl came along. We were leaving the old log school at Mace’s Hill one day during the trying period, it being the noon hour. The steps at the front of the school building were rather high. Just as we were about to start down them, Donoho towns, one of our school mates who got a great kick out of teasing us about the girl mentioned, grabbed our hand. We had a dinner basket in the other hand. We were fairly strong and the thought of being held at the top of the steps until the girl arrived, was so terrifying that we determined to break loose, no matter what the penalty. We squirmed and twisted and finally broke the boy’s hold on our hand. But we were in such a frenzy to getaway when we pulled loose from Town’s hand, we plunged head-long down about a dozen steps, to land on our hands and knees. One knee was badly bruised and cut and bled quite a lot. Both hands had gravel imbedded in them. Our dinner basket ha hit the ground very hard and our cup of honey, which made up our part of lunch, was broken and the contents spilled over the remainder of the contents of the dinner basket, thus ruining our dinner and adding to our already wrought-up feelings. A little later we decided to tell the teacher to give us some help in stopping the “torments of the lost,” and went out the road from which the teacher arrived each morning. We had gotten out of sight of the playing school children and were waiting for the teacher to come along to tell him “our tale of woe,” when suddenly the very girl about whom we were being teased unmercifully, and her chum another girl, appeared in sight. In stead of merely speaking to them and waiting on the road, we turned, unable to face the two, one of whom had written our name on the blackboard and had unwittingly started all this trouble for the writer, and walked slowly back toward the school building just ahead of the two girls. Whereupon the aggravating boys began to call out: “Cal went to meet his girl.” We had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and there was but little we could do for the time being except suffer in silence. And suffer we did, as perhaps few poor, bashful boys ever suffered. Finally we met the teacher, Mr. Geo. W. Goad, and informed him of our trouble and asked him to give us relief. He did this in a way, speaking publicly to the entire school and asking those who had been teasing “the timid boy who could not take it,” to desist. And we are thankful to say that they took the teacher’s advice and dropped this aggravating attitude toward the writer. Just why children delight in tormenting some child that is too bashful or timid or cowardly to defend himself is not known. We have gotten over our childish timidity and bashfulness, but it cost us many heartache, a lot of tears and silent anguish that will remain with us as long as we live. We do not believe in teaching children to fight, but we are sorry for the child who will not defend his own rights and one whom all others “may run over.”
We used to grieve a lot because we were not proficient in many games and in the “choosing up” would be left till the last and sometimes left entirely out of the game. Then we were easily “cattled,” and this caused us to do worse then we would have done otherwise. But in the school room it was a different story, even if we do say so. At age 12, we were able to lead all the other children in spelling and most of the studies. And we do not say this to boast at all. We were able to solve every problem in Weidenhammer’s Mental Arithmetic also. We were spell every word in the red-backed Hunt’s Progressive Speller, a feat we could not do today. In games of running, marbles, and horseshoe pitching, we finally became fairly proficient, but the “butt” of other years still lingers in memory.
Our early dress at school is also remembered, much of it within some measure of shame. We wore at the start “bodies” with buttons at the bottom, blue cotton home-made pants with buttonholes to fasten the “bodies.” In cold weather we wore jean pants, of a reddish color, and sometimes a coat of same material. Our first overcoat was bought when we were 16. The red jeans pants were pretty rough and never had a crease in them. Moreover, we were so hard on clothes that it was not long after we had received a new pair of pants until the seat and the knees would be out of them. We recall that we used to wear the worst patched pants in school. A hole would come in the pants, this being patched. Later a hole would be worn in the patch, and this would in turn be patched. We used to count the number with others and we were always “champeen” in this respect. We once asked our father why we had to wear such patched clothes and his answer has come down through half a century of times: “ We are too poor to do any better.” And I saw a tear in his eye and never again raised the subject with him.
We were not allowed to have a cap for a long time, our father claiming that mean folks wore caps. Finally our mother persuaded him that there was no just ground for such an idea on November 20, 1903, my brother and I had our first caps. They were black in color, with a couple of small balls over the “bill,” and with pans or flaps at the rear to turn down over our ears. That night it snowed and our caps came in very handy indeed. We recall that our father had “hat trouble” when he was a boy of perhaps 12. He had 132 first cousins on his mother’s side of the house (yes, this is correct.) and part of them were his uncle Bob’s sons. They came to play with our father and his brothers. In their playing, part of the boys were pretty rough and one of them grabbed our father’s old wool hat, which had long since lost the band and had “run up to a peak.” Our father tried to hold his hat and in the round, it was torn completely in twain. Our dad did some tall crying for a time. Finally his mother came to the rescue, taking a needle and black thread and sewing the hat back together. This he had to wear for months afterwards.
We recall another “accident” we suffered after we had attained to the ripe age of 15 years. Our dad bought us a pair of gray jean pants, the first we ever had, and we were as proud of them as we would be today if somebody gave us a $100 suit. We would not wear them while doing the chores about home, but put them on when we were ready to start to school. We had some steel trap sets and usually made the round of these traps before school each morning. To get our traps it was necessary to cross over a black locust tree that had fallen on a steep hillside. It had been down many months and the bark had rotted away, leaving the hard wood bare. In crossing this tree one morning, we hanged our new pants on a sharp knot on that fallen locust tree and tore a tree-cornered place in the seat of the pants half as large as the human hand. This ruined our trousers, but we had to continue wearing them even with a large patch for everybody to see. We could have cried if we had not kindly felt that we were getting “too big to cry.”
The boys of the day and time were not like the boys of today, in matters pertaining to their shirts at least. Every boy did just about his utmost to keep his"shirt tail in," and we can recall the taunts one suffered if this part of his shirt got out of position. Whispers of, “There is a tail out on you,” would be heard and everybody hurriedly examined his shirt to see if he were the “culprit.” We still recall a “tragic happening” to a young man who lived in an era when shirt tails had to be kept in their proper position. This young man had gone to the home of his sweetheart. He was too bashful to decline an invitation to remain for dinner. So he sat down at the table which had a snowy, white cloth, that reached half way from the top of the table to the floor. He sat down with this white table cloth on his legs and became so self-conscious that he was almost beside himself as he glanced down and saw the white table cloth on his legs and decided that it was his shirt tail that had gotten out of place. As he struggled to keep his composure and to avoid attracting the attention of his “sweetie” and her parents, he began to tuck into the top of his pants what he thought was the tail off his white shirt in a furtive and secret matter, not one time taking a good look to see what he was doing. Later when he had “stumbled” though the meal and thought that the recalcitrant shirt was in proper position, he rose quickly from the chair he was occupying. His consternation can be imagined as he saw the table cloth rising with him, dishes being overthrown, their contents spilled on the floor and table and glass and chinaware crashing to the floor. Our information is that this was his final and farewell trip to this particular home. Poor fellow, what a pity he had not lived in this modern day and time when flying shirt tails are “all the go.”