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Remember When: The life of a new bride in 1930

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic event in the 1930s. It is remembered that the focus on many weddings was made on incorporating repurposed household items – like an ironing board for the cake table and a dish drainer displaying beautiful mismatched china wedding gifts, common items that might have been the only luxuries available to a couple.

     Flowers, of course, possibly wild flowers with greenery out of the family’s home flower bed, might have been used. The ceremony itself could have been staged in an apple orchard which became the back drop for a few photographs that might have been taken. A poetic writer penned, “The times were hard, but even then love won!”

     A song that was a popular wedding song in the 1930s was “Always” by Irving Berlin. “I’ll be loving you, always; with a love that’s true, always…” was actually written in 1925, but it has been a popular instrumental and vocal wedding song ever since! 

     From the Old Home Folks Edition of The Opp News, July 31, 1980, is a story told by a bride of the day  Mrs. Tayla Wise arrived in the Perry Store Community on May 30, 1930 after she became a bride on May 28. Two days after their wedding, she and her new husband drove into the community in a borrowed Model A Ford with a group of well- wishing young people greeting them. Even though she had graduated from Randolph County High School as valedictorian and would have liked to have been a teacher, it was in the midst of a deep economic depression but springtime had found her in love. The oldest of nine children, she was the daughter of a sharecropper, and very few were able to go to college at the time.

     Mrs. Wise brought with her six quilts, a fashionable trunk in that day, two pillows, a bed spread, and a few dishes of mixed variety that had been given her by friends. (No one back then had ever heard of a bridal shower.) She soon learned that all her husband had was his clothes and a $30. debt for fertilizer for his small one-horse crop!

     “We didn’t have much, but it didn’t bother us so bad since we had as much as our cousins and friends. We borrowed money for a stove, six chairs, and a bed and a dresser.”

     “There wasn’t any money around. If you could get a days’ work and happen to receive money, it was about $1.00 per day and that was from sun up to sundown. Sometimes pay was for two gallons of syrup or so much corn. These things we could swap in town for the things we needed. We grew what we ate.

A dozen eggs sold for 10 cents a dozen. You could turn around and buy a pretty piece of cotton material for 10 cents a yard. 30 cents for a dress you made yourself wasn’t bad. People really learned how to barter in those days.”

     Mrs. Wise remembered having unexpected company that first year, an aunt and an uncle.  She had plenty of fresh potatoes out of the garden along with beans, squash, and tomatoes. She had six hens but they had not laid a single egg for a few days. So for dinner they boiled two or three potatoes, mashed them up, and mixed a little of it with pink salmon that cost 25 cents a can.

     They had their own ham, sausage, and bacon, but when it gave out, they were just out till hog killing time! They did have  homemade peanut butter. Steak and fried chicken were not eaten often. “We just ate what we had!”

     Men in the neighborhood swapped work with each other especially when it came to planting time. Most farmers were one-horse farmers so they would take turns planting corn for one and the next day for the other.

     The couple would get up every morning at 3:30 or 4 o’clock every morning. A fire was built in the wood stove to cook homemade biscuits, ham, sausage, or bacon for breakfast. There was always syrup and butter. Getting to the field by daylight was important. “People who didn’t get up and out early were considered shiftless and would never amount to much. You had to rise and shine in those days.”

     “People made and gathered their crops and didn’t dare work on Sundays. Most people took Saturday evenings off to go to Opp. The Bible says in Exodus: ‘Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.’ It also says in Leviticus, ‘Ye shall keep my Sabbath and reverence my sanctuary. If you walk in my statues and keep my commandments, and do them, then I will give you rain in due season.’”

     “When crops were laid by, a wagon load or two might pack a picnic lunch, go down to the river near the Indian mounds, fish all day, cook and eat the fish with what we carried, and come home late in the evening.”

     Mrs. Wise wrote in her memoirs that there were very few cars at that time. The majority of people traveled on wagons, buggies, or a Hoover Cart named after President Herbert Hoover. It was a two-wheel cart drawn by a horse, mule, or maybe a steer. A few people plowed and tended their crops with a steer instead of a mule. “After six years, we finally managed to pay out of debt and buy us a brand new green one-horse wagon with a spring seat. I believe we were prouder of the new wagon than a new car some years later!”

     On Saturdays, the family would go to town.  They took eggs, some syrup, and some live chickens to sell. The eggs were packed in a basket filled with cotton seed to keep them from breaking as the wagon bumped along on those rough dirt roads. They made it a rule never to go to town if at all possible unless they had more to sell than they planned to buy.

     For lights, they used the old kerosene lamps and lanterns. Some people advanced to the Aladdin lamp that burned oil. “Many was the night we carried our lamp to church for a light as several other families did. There were shelves on the wall to set the lamps on. Most country churches only had preaching once a month and never over twice!”

     “It’s hard for me to see how we ever got by now – all these modern conveniences. There were no peanut shellers. Each family had to shell by hand their own peanut seed enough for next year’s planting.  Big sack fulls were hung up where the rats and mice couldn’t get to them.”

     “The women of the community had what they called peanut shellings in the afternoon. We walked anywhere from a mile or more to go shell peanuts. You shelled until you just had time to get home, milk the cows, feed the chickens, and have supper on the table when the men came out of the field at sundown.”

     “After the peanut shellings were over, there were always the quilting bees. It was not uncommon to take a covered dish and go help quilt out four or five quilts in a day. 15 or 20 women used to quilting could do lot of quilting in a day.”

     Mrs. Wise remembered that every homemaker made her own soap to wash clothes with lye soap – a pound of cracklings, a box of Red Devil lye, and a bucket of water. “Multiply that by three and there was,” she stated, “a wash pot full of soap that would last a family of three or four for a whole year. After it was properly cooked, it sat in the pot for a few days cooling and congealed. Then it was cut in squares and laid out on a board to dry. Then it was ready for use like any soap.”

     To wash, most people had three tubsa wash pot, rub (scrub) board, battling block and battling stick. The clothes were sorted, washed through two waters then boiled well. Next the clothes were taken out of the boiling water with the stick, pounded good on the battling block, then rinsed through the three waters and hung out on the line to dry.

     “It was more fun to wash than iron. Building a fire in the fireplace when it was 90 degrees in the shade wasn’t easy, but those irons had to be heated to iron those shirts, dresses, and pillow cases. You would iron as the perspiration rolled down. “

     The highlight of the week in the summertime was when friends and family came together on Saturday night to make ice cream. We’d buy 25 to 50 pounds of ice at the ice house in Opp then wrap it in sacks and newspapers to get it home for the ice cream making. It was lots of fun, good fellowship, and all the hand turned ice cream you could possible eat.”

     Hog killing time was described so vividly by Mrs. Wise. “You got up real early when the weather was right. You also swapped work with your neighbors for this job. One hog had to be rushed through so you could get some of the fresh meat for dinner. (I will skip some of the details of this ordeal!) At the end of the day, if you were an invited helper, you went home with all the meat that would pile on a big dish pan plus a pan of fresh sausage, more meat than you could use in over a week! I’m sorry this generation missed out on hog killing days.”

     “Neighbors were real neighbors in those days just like a man’s word was his bond.”

     Mrs. Wise stated that syrup making time was another interesting time when all of the family got involved. “Before frost came, the cane had to be stripped, hauled to the mill, and made into syrup for the coming year.”

     She concluded her story written in 1980 (almost 40 years ago) by saying “There have been so many changes in this area in these 50 years (1930-1980). Sometimes it seems such a short time and other days as I reflect over the years, it seems like a million years. Every home in this country community hasn’t any reason to envy any of their city cousins for with electricity coming to the country. All electrical conveniences became a reality for every farm home. There’s nothing the city home has that the farm home doesn’t have any more. You might say that the farm home has some ‘plus’ to its advantages, but that’s another story!”

     This story by Mrs. Wise was a precious one. I wish I knew who her kin people are over in the Perry Store Community. Stories like this are truly treasures of the past. Let this be an encouragement to you readers to write down your family’s stories.

     Hopefully, we won’t ever have to go back to hard times like these in the Rolling Store days, but we can Remember When those who came before us who lived and loved in an era that we should never forget!

     Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at suebwilson47@gmail.com.