Thanks to Durham for permission to reprint his interview with his father!
DC: With the store, how did the Caldwell family get involved in farming?
WGC: My father wanted something to keep all three of us boys at home. He bought some land. He first bought four acres up here on this farm. Kept adding to it. He added to it till he had about 200 acres. He traded in real estate quite a lot. He had two or three little farms out in the country. Back in those days, farmers would start a charge account at the store the first of the year and charge their merchandise till they sold their tobacco in the fall. Sometimes they'd want to sell us a wagonload of corn on the store account. He'd buy it. We always fattened out a bunch of hogs. Back in those days, if we killed hogs and there was surplus meat they didn't want to put in the smokehouse, we could take it to the store and sell it. You can't do it now it has to be government inspected.
DC: Hogs what else did you have on the farm?
WGC: Cattle, sheep. Used to raise sheep the dogs got so bad we had to quit raising sheep.
DC: What crops were grown?
WGC: Tobacco was the main money crop. We grew sorghum cane, corn, hay, oats. Sorghum cane we'd cut the heads off, cut the seeds off, pull the fodder off, and cut the stalks to take to the sorghum mill, squeeze the juice out of to make sorghum molasses. The sorghum head seed we'd put in the chicken house for the hens to have in the wintertime. The fodder we tied up and put in the barn for the livestock. I raised clover and timothy hay at one time. We used to raise oats. We raised wheat. But the tobacco crop was the main money crop then. You had to strip the leaves off the stalks, tie 'em up according to the length of the leaves. You graded it in the barn. Maybe you had two or three grades. You'd have nubs, you'd have 18 inch, 20 inch, 22 inch tobacco maybe. Back in those days, tobacco buyers would come to your barn and buy your tobacco. You'd have to deliver it to their warehouse. Later on, they had what they called a loose-leaf tobacco warehouse. You'd take your tobacco there, and they sold it at auction. They had a sale once a week.
DC: You harvested when?
WGC: Start in August. Hang it in the barn to cure.
DC: How long did that take?
WGC: Depends on the weather. So much of raising tobacco depends on the weather. It has to mature so you can strip it, tie it in hands. We used to grow wheat on this place. We were thrashing wheat at one time, and the straw stack caught on fire. We had a bit of excitement till we got it out.
DC: What did you use for machinery?
WGC: Horse drawn mowing machines and horse drawn equipment is what we had. We didn't have any tractors. I remember the first tractor that came to this country. They used it to thrash wheat. I drove it a little bit. I was 13 or 14 years old, big enough to haul the wheat up to the thrasher. They used steam traction engines before they got gasoline tractors.
DC: Were there many of those in this part of the country?
WGC: Quite a few.
DC: Could they do everything that a tractor would do now?
WGC: They were too big to plow and do that sort of thing with. But they pulled wheat thrashers. When I was a boy, Beasley Brothers would come rolling into a field, unhook the separator from the steam engine. They go off out there, turn it around and line up with the separator, put the belt on and start thrashing wheat. One man brought three two-horse wagons behind a steam tractor into Westmoreland one time with hatchet handles to my Uncle Syd had these wagons hitched behind a steam engine, a traction engine, and had a big water tank on the last wagon with water for the engine.
DC: Did they grow many strawberries in Westmoreland when you were growing up?
WGC: No, not till I was practically grown. Portland started strawberries. It was a main money crop over there. We started strawberries here. I've grown strawberries.
DC: Were they a successful crop here?
DC: Where did you grow them?
WGC: Old farm we had out the road, about a couple of miles.
DC: Do I remember that your mother was active in strawberry growing?
WGC: Yes. She had some on this place out where Luther Hall used to live. The Hall family were tenant farmers for us. She had them plant some strawberries out there.
DC: When I came home from the Army in 1946, they were picking a lot of blackberries around here and shipping them over to Portland to ship out to canners. Do they still do that? Did they do that in the old days, too?
WGC: They don't do it now like they used to. I bought over a thousand dollars' worth of blackberries one day. Jim Halliburton and I bought blackberries for Beeler Dye and Henry Gregory. I didn't realize we bought so many blackberries till we got it all added up. That was 1948, I guess along about then.
DC: When you were growing up, were people picking blackberries then?
WGC: Oh, yes, they've always picked blackberries. The first green snake I ever saw, when I took my mother, Charlie Omeara, and the hired lady down to Grandpa Caldwell's to pick blackberries. We went out in the pasture to pick blackberries. I see this green snake crawling back under the blackberry bushes.
DC: They weren't picking blackberries commercially then?
DC: Hickory nuts what other kind of nut trees are there around here?
WGC: Walnuts. We used to have a good walnut market. I don't know if they have any market now or not.
DC: People grow walnuts commercially, or just have a tree in the yard?
WGC: Trees in the yards.
DC: Hickory nuts, were they ever sold commercially?
WGC: Not that I know of. Old engineer on the passenger train used to want a bucket of walnuts once in a while. I took him a bucket of walnuts one time when he got up off his seat, raised the seat up, and poured the walnuts in this box under his seat, which was quite a curiosity to me.
DC: Your mother used to use hickory nuts in her famous fruitcake recipe.
DC: What else did she use in that fruitcake, do you remember?
WGC: Fruit, candied cherries, citron, stuff like that.
DC: What other recipes did she have that you especially recall?
WGC: Jam cake. A cake made with blackberry jam. Coconut cake was good. They used to make a lot of tea cakes.
DC: How about fried pies?
WGC: They've always been popular as far as I can remember.
DC: What kind of bread was usually on the table?
WGC: Corn bread and biscuits.
DC: Both at the same time?
DC: How'd you eat the biscuits?
WGC: Put some butter on them. If you were going to have gravy, just open the biscuit up and cover it up with gravy. We'd always have gravy with chicken and sausage and ham. Have it for breakfast.
DC: How about sorghum molasses?
WGC: Yeah. Sorghum molasses is good on biscuits with butter.
DC: What's the difference between corn bread and hoe cake?
WGC: Corn bread's usually baked in the oven. Hoe cake is cooked on top of the stove.
DC: Have those both at the same meal?
WGC: No, I don t think so.
DC: Either one or the other?
DC: And beans. How many kinds of beans would be on the table on a day in the wintertime?
WGC: Maybe one. Cornfield beans, navy beans, pinto beans we had lots of different kinds of beans.
DC: What else was likely to be on the menu?
WGC: Potatoes. Sometimes ham meat. Hog jaw.
DC: And after hog killing, any additions to the menu?
WGC: We'd have tenderloin. And make sausage. We'd fry sausage and put 'em in a stone jar and put grease on 'em. We'd eat sausage. I don't ever remember any of my folks get sick from eating pork. Tenderloin was delicious.
DC: And how would the chicken be fixed?
WGC: Well, we had different ways. Chicken dressing's made with the fowl. Frying chickens or broilers are young chickens. Fried chicken's always been very popular.
DC: What kind of batter did they use?
WGC: My grandmother used to use meal corn meal. Most people use flour, I think.
DC: Did corn meal come from the store, or did you make your own?
WGC: When I was a boy, we used to go to the crib we used to raise a lot of corn go to the crib and pick out white corn, make the meal out of white corn. We had two or three different grist mills that ground corn into meal. Later on you could buy it at the store, like you can now.
DC: What other kind of mills were there besides grist mills?
WGC: There was a water mill out here on the creek. They made a little dam up the creek and ran the water down the mill race, they called it. Ran off on this big wheel and turned the wheel to grind corn. Stone ground meal.
DC: How about saw mills?
WGC: L & B Lumber Co. had three at one time, I think.
DC: What kind of saws did they use in the first saw mills you can remember?
WGC: They had a round circular saw. The first saw mills I remember seeing had a steam engine. These traction engines had a big wheel to pull a belt. Then they had a stationary steam engine that wasn't a traction engine. Used to be one of those out the road.
DC: Dad, I recall you used to have a ram's horn here at the house.
What was that?
WGC: It was a dinner horn. They blew it to bring the men in from the fields at noontime. Or they used it at any time they wanted to get in touch with the people working out in the field. They had quite a few people working on the farm back in those days.
DC: Who did that belong to?
WGC: It belonged to my grandfather. My grandmother gave it to me. After my father and mother died, I believe my sister took it. I don't know whatever became of it.
DC: Do you remember that actually being used when you were a boy?
WGC: No, that was before my day.
DC: What about church in Westmoreland when you were growing up?
WGC: We had a Methodist preacher when I was a boy, preached once or twice a month. Didn't preach every Sunday. Back then members would take the preacher home with them for dinner. They don't seem to do that any more.
DC: They take turns doing this, or was this a matter of prestige?
WGC: A matter of prestige, I guess. Then later on, they built a Methodist parsonage for the preacher to live in. And they got finances so they were able to have preaching every Sunday.
DC: Were there any other churches in Westmoreland in those days?
WGC: No. The Methodists used to loan their church to any other denomination that wanted to preach. I've heard a Free Methodist preacher preach in the Methodist Church, Church of Christ preachers preach in the Methodist Church, General Baptist preachers preach in the Methodist Church. Have to give the Methodists credit for being liberal.
DC: Was the Methodist Church the same building that's used today?
WGC: No. This one was up where the feed mill is. It was replaced by the new church over on the corner, where it is now. Had a Christmas party one night, a Christmas tree, one cold winter night. I think I remember hearing some firecrackers shooting in back of the church. Anyway, the church burned that night. It was a prettier church than the one we've got now. It had brick outside. It had a steeple. Very pretty church. Then they built this one they have now.
DC: What part did the church play in the social life of the town?
WGC: They had a young people's organization. New Year's they'd have a watch party. Everybody was invited to come. They'd sing. Maybe make talks, New Year's resolutions. At midnight they'd ring the church bell.
DC: What did they have for schools in Westmoreland when you started
WGC: We had a two teacher school. Old schoolhouse had a downstairs and an upstairs. Everything up to fourth grade stayed downstairs. Fifth grade went upstairs up to the eighth grade. We didn't have a high school for a long time. About 1913 or '14, I think, was the first high school we had.
DC: What are some of the things you remember about school?
WGC: We went at eight o'clock in the morning. Had 15 minutes recess in the morning, an hour at noontime, 15 minutes' recess in the afternoon, and we got out at 4 o'clock. There was no such thing as a school bus back then. Boys walked from the Macon County line to Westmoreland.
DC: What were the teachers like? Were they strict?
WGC: The principals were very strict. The teachers they had better discipline then than they do now. They had 25 or 30, I guess, sometime in a class. Big classes. Four grades in a room when I first went.
DC: What kind of games did you play, assuming you had time for games
in between farm work and school work and store work?
WGC: We played baseball. I used to be a left-handed pitcher as a young fellow. The two catchers would choose up in the morning. We'd play at recess and at noontime and at recess in the afternoon. They'd choose up again the next morning. Clarence Atkinson was one of our catchers. If he had the first take, he'd take me to be his pitcher. You've seen 'em choose up with a bat. Baseball was one of our main games. Then we played cat ball. Fox in the Morning, Goose in the Evening.
DC: What's Fox in the Morning, Goose in the Evening?
WGC: Well, they line up. Sometimes they let the girls and boys both play. Line up on each end of the field. One would run out. One of the others would chase 'em. If they caught 'em, they d have to come over on their side. Sort of silly little game, but it was a lot of fun. April Fools Day, there was always a group that ran off from school, but I didn't go with em. The teacher would take the rest of us, and we'd have a picnic in the afternoon maybe.
DC: What about Christmas? Christmas seemed to be the time for
fireworks instead of the Fourth of July.
WGC: That's the way they used to do it. They used to didn't sell fireworks here the Fourth of July, but they do now. We used to have fireworks the Christmas holiday season. Roman candles. Firecrackers. Torpedoes.
DC: I remember your father saying many years ago when he was a boy if they got a few oranges and firecrackers at Christmas, that was really a big Christmas in those days.
WGC: Well, when I was a boy, we could only buy bananas and oranges and things like that during the Christmas holidays. Now you can buy 'em year 'round. Cold drinks, the drink trucks didn't come in the wintertime. They'd come in the summertime: Geri-Cola, Coca-Cola, the different things like that. In the wintertime, they did't even come. DC: Was Christmas a big holiday?
WGC: Yes, the old Methodist Church would have a Christmas tree. Everybody who wanted to put a present under the Christmas tree for a friend would. We had a Santy Claus. I used to get a big thrill when they called my name to help deliver the presents from Santy Claus back to the people in the audience. One Christmas some drunks started a disturbance in the back. One of the police officers got up on the back seats and waved his gun around and told everybody to sit down and keep quiet don't get excited the officers took the drunks out.
DC: Were there many problems keeping the peace?
WGC: A man sold whisky up at the Kentucky line. I've seen a group of people come through Westmoreland, maybe three or four of them on horseback with a quart bottle sticking out of their pocket and a gallon jug in each end of a grass sack thrown across the horse behind the saddle. Ride up to a store, call the merchant out, and offer him a drink, tell him to bring them some tobacco or something, and go on home. In those days, they put on extra police in the wintertime, especially during the holiday season. One winter near our house, a big policeman started to arrest a man. His brother and some other men tried to take him away from the policeman. This policeman was a big man. He shoved them away. I think he tore one of them's coat off. He handled about three of them there at one time. He was bigger than they were. He didn't let them take his prisoner. We had a little calaboose down here. We called it a calaboose and locked prisoners up. Now they take them to Gallatin in a car. Back then we didn't have any cars to take them in.
DC: How about moonshining? Was there any moonshining around here that you know of?
WGC: There was some down here in the hills, but I never knew much about it. I used to know where there was a house down there with a cave under it. I heard the man who lived there at one time made whisky.
DC: In the cave?
WGC: Yeah. He'd let the smoke go out of his flue the regular house flue.
DC: Were there many guns around Westmoreland?
WGC: Quite a few.
DC: Did your father have a gun at the store?
WGC: At one time, he had a pistol in there.
DC: Did he ever have to use it?
WGC: Not that I know of. He put his own brother out for cussing in the store at one time.
DC: Uncle Syd?
WGC: Yeah. Uncle Syd was back in the store talking and let out a big oath. My father went back and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Syd, I don t allow any swearing in the store." Uncle Syd apologized. Dad went back up front and was waiting on trade. A few minutes later, Uncle Syd came out with another big oath. He just went back and took him by the arm and led him out put him out of the store.