Spring’s Celebration at Billingsley High School

At Billingsley High, in the ninth grade, the girls took two hours of Home Economics shortened to Homemake and the boys put in an equivalent time everyday in agricultural studies, shortened to Ag.

My favorite courses were the sciences and maths, but by far the most useful in day to day has proven to be – homemake.  We cooked, sewed refinished and reupholstered furniture,  made slipcovers, arranged flowers, learned proper table manners, how a lady was introduced, on what side of her escort she walked, proper attire for different events and how to dress and act on the first and future dates.

When spring arrived the Ag boys and homemake girls gave their annual banquet to showoff all their skills to parents and friends.

About a week before the event, the guys prepared a huge barbeque pit and secured about a cord of green hickory wood. Getting that green hickory to fire-up then burn low and maintaining it at a steady low burn, I am told, is an art form, and the only way to achieve expert pit barbeque.

Early on the morning thereof, the guys lite their hickory fire, the girls prepared several gross of chickens for barbequing, cooked side dishes, decorated the lunch room, and made sure the drinks and ice were ready.

The girls sported dresses and aprons they had made and the guys stood around their fire-pit (Neanderthals!) flexing their muscles and boasting.

It was a jolly-ole-time.

Below are pictures of my classmates and I at our spring bar-b-que in 1959.  We were in charge of the ice and drinks, and of course we were clowning.

Spring banquet at Billingsley High School

Fun at the Spring banquet at Billingsley High School

The second picture is of us eating outside, the lunchroom being reserved for parents and teachers, is shown in the background.

Spring Banquet at Billingsley High School 1959

Spring Banquet

August 31, 2010 · Carolyn · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Billingsley High School, country life

Rolling Store Man

NOTE:    Due to the depression and then W.W.II, cars were rare amongst the country folk where I grew up.  Going to the store required arranging transport in advance, or walking, or riding your plow horse.

So enterprising merchants got themselves old vans or buses, installed shelves, ice chests, stocked them with merchandise and voila’ – the Rolling Store was created.

Day to day life in the woods seldom varied.  If we had visitors, it was usually some one needing Daddy’s help either to take them to the hospital in Clanton for emergencies such as broken bones, getting gored by a bull and once a neighbor hemorrhaging with TB, or to borrow the money to pay for those medical bills.  Daddy gave it to them even knowing he’d probably never get it back.

So when Bernerd and I saw a bus-like vehicle creak down our long drive and pull-up under our massive oak tree – well, that was exciting, cause Rolling Store Man had arrived.

Rolling Stores didn’t adhere to a schedule, so Mama couldn’t plan a head and have money on hand, but that wasn’t a problem.  What with her being known as The Praying Woman, her produce was trusted and sought after.  Rolling Store Man, gladly traded for Mama’s chickens, eggs, butter and canned blackberries and huckleberries and their jams.

When he pulled up and parked, first he and Mama would determine what kind of chickens his customers wanted, whether pullets, baking hens, a yard rooster, or fryers and send Bernerd and me to round them up.  She took care of the more delicate and breakable merchandise.

Rolling Store Man weighed the chickens, stuffed them in cages he kept in the back of the bus, then he and Mama got down to the serious business of haggling till the value of everything was struck at that time Mama would buy.

She let me stand inside the Rolling Store beside her, where I could feast my eyes on all those fascinating items Rolling Store Man had on his shelves: Phials of first aid supplies – merthiolate, mercurochrome – rolls of adhesive tape and gauze, menthol gum for making lineament, boric acid for making sore eye solution and beautiful blue stone crystals used to cure ground itch on horses hooves.

There were tins marked with scull and crossbones, which  I longed to open just to see what poisons looked like, what color they’d be, and if they would explode if I mixed them together.  I’d ask questions about explosive probabilities and Bernerd, being four years older than me, would try to drag me out of the store, but I’d hold on the door frame thwarting his efforts.

There were the spools of thread and packets of needles to tempt my hands, but Mama was strict.  I was never allowed to touch anything less Rolling Store Man think I might steal.

That was OK, for I knew Mama would buy us some candy, which was featured prominently on the shelves by the entrance – boxes of the luscious tasting, to Bernerd and me, rarity.  I loved the penny candy.  It sat in those boxes just sparkling at me.  All those blues, yellows, reds and greens looked like gemstones.

When Mama completed her purchases, and Rolling Store Man trundled back down the drive, she’d hand us each a candy bar and a nickel’s worth of penny candy.

Bernerd and I would sit on the big roots under the Oak to eat our candy bar, lick our penny suckers, knowing that we were also in for a treat at supper – hoop cheese and bologna, sliced from a stalk, served on lite bread.

Wow!  Life was goo-ood that day.

May 29, 2010 · Carolyn · 3 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: country life

Hunting for Barnyard Treasure

When I was five or six, Mom showed me how and where to find unauthorized and hidden hen egg nest.  For my safety, she drilled into me the limits within which I could hunt.  At the barn, I could go no further than the beginning of the woods; at the house, the spring where we got our water was the limit.  When she was sure that I would obey those rules she named me her little treasure hunter.  The job filled me with pride, and I endeavored to find every maverick hen nest.

We had one flock of chickens living at the barn, and another lived around the house.

How the chickens knew which flock they belonged in, I have no idea, but they did, and visitation did not occur between the flocks, enforced by their lord-high roosters.

The barnyard flock was ruled over by an iridescent, indigo rooster that glistened in sunlight. His tail plumage, of the same color, shot-up from his body only to fall in a graceful drape.  A tall, red comb rode on his head, setting off the indigo quite nicely. I loved to watch him lower one wing and prance a flamingo around one of his ladies.

The house flock’s sovereign was a large Rhode Island Red.  He was no less handsome, but to me his flamingo dance wasn’t as graceful.

Hens being chickens, all seemed to want to hide the prizes they laid from the prying hands that gathered their eggs.  And in the spring, when the urge to sit came over them, hitting them all at once, they would rebel, and you’d see an exodus from the nests in their pens to the woods.

Mom only allowed ten to fifteen hens to sit in a season.  At twelve chicks a hen, that would be a hundred to one hundred twenty chick, which meant about 275 chickens in one flock.  Too many to feed.  Population control was essential.

When the hens headed for the woods, Mom would call in her Treasure Hunter to find the nests.  It was great fun.  I’d do exaggerated sneaks fantasizing various scenarios from busting up treasure thieves to finding nest filled with golden eggs.  I found most of the nest, but not all.

Frequently, a lady would come strutting and clucking home from the woods with a dozen or more little fuzzy, peeping biddies trailing behind her.

She’d strut amongst the other chickens, proudly showing off her brood.  The other hens gathered round and chicken gossip commenced.

The rooster, of course, was above even noticing the commotion.

The mother hen would scratch the dirt, then cluck a call, and the biddies would dutifully gather, pecking in the area Momma hen had scratched for them, peeping all the while.

I’d watch the hen and chicks interactions, and the pride the other hens seem to take in one of theirs having pulled one over the humans.  It was a beautiful sight.  I wasn’t terribly upset over having missed a few nest.  In fact, I made a point to miss a few.

March 27, 2010 · Carolyn · 2 Comments
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Crimson Tide vs Auburn War Eagles

To say that football was King in the Billingsley community was a vast understatement. In our household, time and the seasons were measured by the Crimson Tide’s football schedule for example: Three months, sixteen days till Alabama kicks off, ten days till spring training, two weeks before the Tide rolls over and drowns that no-good-cow-college Auburn.

I remember a special Saturday afternoon in the mid to later ’40’s. My two older sisters, youngest brother and I were gathered around our dining room table and our portable radio. Our attention was riveted to the Alabama Crimson Tide football game.

Coffee, a must for all family celebratory events, and homegrown popcorn handy, but forgotten, we leaned, as if pulled by magic, toward the radio. That magic was named Harry Gilmer jump passer extraordinare.

The game almost over, the Tide needing a touchdown to win, the ball being snapped, Harry Gilmer going back to pass, he jumped way up, just hanging there and rocketed that ball into the end zone and into history. God above! We managed to take a breath and went nuts, screaming, pounding on the table and throwing popcorn into the air.

***

Time past. I reached junior high and my siblings were either away in college or married and gone, but the devotion to the Crimson Tide they had instilled within me had been nurtured and grown.

More students at Billingsley High were Auburn fans, and, to me, Auburn fans verged on the fanatical. I, of course, never stooped to being fanatical. Soon, I discovered that riling them, was easy and fun.

My favorite provocation was throwing epithets. I called Auburn fans cow herders and their War Eagle a featherless chicken; they called Alabama fans stuck-ups and the Crimson Tide – shoreline scum. In a good volley, epithets could be slung back and forth for ten or more minutes before the long suffering teacher put a stop to it.

In seventh grade our exchanges ratcheted to new heights – poetry and essay. I wrote a two page poem about the travails of Auburn’s hapless quarterback trying to play against Alabama’s heroes of the field.

Smart and quick witted, Wilfred and his group countered with essays equating Auburn’s quarterback’s triumphs on the field to those of Hercules.

Our teachers were so astounded and pleased by our sudden plunge into literary endeavors that they let us read our compositions to the class.

Well, it didn’t take long for us to realise that our writing and reciting was getting us out of class.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the teachers to reach that same conclusion.

Oh, well, we de-escalated our football battles back to the mere slinging of insults, but it continued to be great fun.

POST SCRIPT:

Harry Gilmer’s name and his technique of jumping to pass came from my memories at five and six years of age. I went to ask.com to fact check these memories before posting the story. Imagine my pleasure when a picture of Harry, jumping up to pass, came on screen. Making it even sweeter was finding that he is still alive. Turns out that Mr. Gilmer was quite the athlete, and some of his records still stand.

Below are two links to read of his career and see the picture of his famous jump passing.

Harry Gilmer

St. Louis Today on Harry Gilmer

March 12, 2010 · Carolyn · 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Crimson Tide

FAST FOOD COMES TO BILLINGSLEY HIGH

Do you remember the first time you saw or ate a hamburger? I do. Billingsley High.

In the ’40’s, coming out of the Great Depression, my parents still produced what we ate, augmented by hunting and fishing.

Sandwiches around our table were unseen. Mom cooked three meals a day, consisting of a meat, lots of vegetables, with biscuits and cornbread – the cornmeal ground from corn we grew – slathered with butter from our own cows.

Desert? Nah, only on special Sundays did Mom waste the resources and spend the time to make her famous chocolate fudge cake.

On the grounds of Billingsley High stood a cannery, where surrounding families brought their produce and preserved it in gallon cans.

The lunch room benefited from the counties share of these canned goods, so for many years we were served delicious vegetables at school also.

It was as I neared junior high age, that a buzz went through my class, concerning the coming Friday lunch room menu They were going to serve hamburgers and potato chips! My only excitement came from knowing, I’d find out what those food items were.

So why the buzz? To me, hamburgers proved to be nothing more than a lot of bread with a piece of dry ground beef. I was so unimpressed, I gave mine to Earl, but kept the pickles and potato chips.

March 3, 2010 · Carolyn · 3 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: country life