Wednesday, 30 November 2011 13:24
The year I think was late 1965 or maybe early 1966, but finally, phone service had come to Paw Paw. It was a much-anticipated wait. With lots of begging, we eventually talked Dad into getting us hooked on to the “party line”.
Those younger than me probably won’t understand what I’m talking about and those as old as me will understand perfectly. The phone line was most times a blessing, sometimes a headache, but always entertaining.
What “party line” meant was, more than one family shared your phone service. The line up Paw Paw had six families fighting for possession of who got to use the phone. The correct way for a polite person, who picked up the phone while it was already in use, would be to hang up the phone after apologizing for interrupting the conservation.
Usually, I would wait about 5 or 10 minutes and again pick up the receiver to check if the line was still busy. Next, I would wait about 2 minutes and if the line were still in use, I would ask how long would it be before I would be able to use the phone. Most of the time, everyone shared equally because everyone knew all parties on the line. But sometimes, it was a battle over the use of the telephone.
If someone was made mad, they would merely lay the receiver off the hook and no one could use the phone until they got over their mad spell. Many times when somebody on my line left the phone off the hook, I would do some pretty crazy things to try to get him or her to hang up the phone. I would first try yelling in the phone really loud, “Would you please hang up the phone?”
If that didn’t work after about repeating my request for about fifty times, I would resort to other measures. I would get a loud whistle and blow it constantly for about 5 minutes or until Momma or Dad made me stop. I would sometimes turn on the radio really loud playing rock music, or as the older neighbors called it, “the Devil’s music!” And if that didn’t work, then I would start apologizing for being so rude and hope they felt sorry for me and hung it up.
When that didn’t work, I would walk to my neighbors and beg politely, “Please hang up the phone. I’m so sorry about the whistle, it wasn’t me, it was my little brother Carlos, he thinks he’s a policeman. I won’t let him do it again. And the music, that was my sister Jackie, she loves that awful stuff, and she loves it loud. I hate it!”
When I got older, I would sometimes drive my car to their house and hold down the horn until they came to the door and then ask them to please hang up the phone or I would lay ours off the hook for a week. Most times one of the above would work.
Only one home could use the phone at a time, but anyone who decided to pick up the phone while it was in use, couldn’t do anything until the caller hung up. Except, hear every word, of every conversation by the person who was on the phone. And some got their entertainment by listening to private conservations. The name given to the unwanted listener was “eaves- dropper”.
A real nosey person, and we had plenty, would sit by the phone most of the day to hear all the gossip. They discovered if they laid their hand on the phone and another home had a caller, the phone would vibrate letting the eavesdropper know. If they wanted to listen, and we had plenty who did, they would wait until the phone stopped vibrating letting them know the other party had picked up the phone.
Quickly they would put their hand over the phone receiver keeping down any noise the caller might hear letting them know they were listening to the conservation. Later on, someone figured out you could unscrew the hand receiver and remove the little microphone in the mouthpiece and no one could anything at the home of the person who had the phone up.
Once, while talking to my soon to be wife, I was telling her goodnight after a long phone conversation when someone butted in and said “Don’t forget to tell Margy you love her.” They had been listening to every word of our call. From then on, I really had to be careful what I said on the phone.
There were no secrets on Paw Paw after the telephone. No conservation was private. There was a group of women who called themselves “The Lonely Hearts Club” who met once a week in a small one room building on the right side of the road at the mouth of Paw Paw and their main topic each week was what they had overheard on the telephone that week. So I got the idea to make things a little more interesting for the lonely women who had nothing better to do than listen to everyone’s phone calls.
I got one of my friends to give me a call one night, knowing one of the lonely hearts club women would pick up the phone to hear our conservation. After hearing the “click”, that let me know an eavesdropper had picked up, I started with my bull.
“Larry, have you had a chance to check out the good looking women on Paw Paw at the Lonely Hearts Club? Man, all are single and really lonely, if you know what I mean. The next time they are having their meeting, I’ll give you a call, if I can get on the line. You gotta’ check ‘em out. They’re all really hot!”
After that, I had no trouble getting on the phone any time I wanted. Once, when two of the women were on the line gossiping, I ask if I could please use the phone. The answer came really quick. “You sure can young man.” One of them said.
The other, then snickering said, “Who are you going to call, Larry?” and giggled like a schoolgirl as she hung up the phone.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 13:44
Lessons in life are sometimes learned the hard way, so it goes with the story of the curtain caper. There are things you only have to do once and you know to never do it again. But some of the times you just don’t know better and those times can sometimes be a little funny looking back on.
My Momma had gotten “new” green curtains for the windows to replace the old tattered ones she had for so many years.
“They’re just beautiful!” she told everyone, standing back and admiring the long, flowing waves of shiny fabric. The material matched the fresh beige paint Dad had just put on the walls. Mom couldn’t have been more proud.
Our house wasn’t the most expensive one on Paw Paw but it was probably the cleanest. She worked so hard to keep it clean and with 7 kids that was a job. One thing I can say about my Mom, we never went hungry and we never went dirty.
We didn’t get a bathroom at home until I was 12 years old. I was like most kids growing up in Clay County, we had an outhouse to do our “business” during the day, but at night we kept a pot under our bed for any late night emergency. The pot was nothing more than an 8 lb. Partridge lard bucket and every morning the bucket had to be emptied.
Most of the times, we emptied the bucket by taking it to the outhouse each morning and pouring the contents down the hole but occasionally if there wasn’t any “solid” stuff, we would slip and throw it out the window. We never let Mom or Dad know this because they wouldn’t stand for the bucket to be emptied out the window, because of the smell it would leave. But, we sometimes did it anyway not wanting to walk all the way to the outhouse.
One morning feeling a little lazy we thought we would take the easy way out and throw the contents through the window. Mom walked into the room just about the time we were doing what we knew better than and screamed, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Being startled, I turned the opened window loose and down it came, her beautiful new curtains were soaked. Well, needless to say, Dad didn’t go to easy on us when Mom told him what we had done. I could take his punishment but I was hurt more for ruining Mom’s curtains.
She took the curtains down immediately and put them in the washing machine with our clothes she was washing for church the next day. When they came out of the wash she made us take them to the clothesline and hang them in the summer breeze to dry. That evening, the curtains looked new again, Mom was happy, and we had a sore behind. One lesson had been learned.
The next day was Sunday, and like every Sunday, we were up early eating our breakfast and then getting ready for church. We put on our clean clothes Mom had washed the day before and got in our car for the trip to Horse Creek Baptist.
I didn’t notice too much right away, but I was itching a little and thought I must have gotten in poison ivy or maybe a chigger or two had moved in. Walking funny into church I noticed I wasn’t the only one scratching and digging, all of the family had an itch.
The morning service seemed like it went on for hours, as all of my brothers and sisters were really restless with an itch no one could explain. Preacher Rush even made a joke that he thought the Lord was really working on some of the congregation this morning, smiling at us as we were really squirming around in our seat.
Dad and Mom neither could figure out what was wrong with us but he didn’t think it was too funny. Most of the time we were very respectful in church but today we couldn’t sit still.
After church was over we almost ran to our car stripping off clothes as we were getting in, with Dad wanting an explanation. We didn’t know what was wrong but we all were itching like crazy. By the time we were pulling over the hill at the house, most of us were down to our underwear and wanting to take those off as well. We had large red patches all over our body and it wasn’t poison ivy it was something else.
Dad figured that we must have had an allergic reaction to the clothes detergent and asked Mom if she had changed what she normally used? She told him it was the same as she had used for years.
He then asked if she had washed anything with the clothes that she hadn’t before? She told him she had washed the green curtains with the clothes yesterday.
“It must have been the curtains.” Dad told Mom.
Dad was right. The new curtains Mom had gotten were made of a new fabric called fiberglass. We had never heard of fiberglass but lesson number two was learned. Never wash anything with fiberglass in it, especially underwear.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 13:44
By: Rodney Miller
Growing up in a home with a family of 9 there are things you remember from long ago, times that are now special and close to your heart. This is one of those stories that today, I can wake up and hear someone in my family shouting “I get the gold bowl” and another saying “I done said, you’re too late”!
I’m sure most of you can remember your mom or dad going to the store once a week for next week’s groceries. Today that seems a little odd, since most go to the grocery almost every day or every other day but years ago you only went for food only once a week and some once a month.
People raised most of the vegetables that would get them through the hard winters by either canning or by drying, and by drying I mean shuck beans, apples, or other fruit. Canning is something not many people do anymore and something not many even know how. But times were a lot harder back then and we didn’t have a freezer to put anything in. We didn’t have freezer bags anyway, no frozen food, and that’s the way it was.
My Dad and Mom shopped at Dobson’s Super Market. That was where he worked. On Saturday night they would come home with all the food we didn’t raise, to feed sometimes up to 15 mouths. Mom’s mother died in childbirth and we helped raise her brothers and sisters, so there was always a crowd at the Miller home.
Dad was injured in a mine accident and walked with a limp the rest of his life but he didn’t lie down and quit. He got a job at Dobson’s working for $35.00 a week as a butcher. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And Mom, well she had 7 kids before she was 30, and her brothers and sisters to take care of.
They would spend $10.00 to $15.00 a week on groceries and we raised the rest. Each fall we would kill a couple of hogs when the first frost came and that would be the meat for most of the winter. We also had a milk cow or two but never a beef for slaughter, didn’t know what a hamburger or a steak was. Plenty of chickens, I always remember. They supplied the eggs that Mom cooked every morning and also supplied the fried chicken that she was famous for. She could wring off a chicken’s head and have it in the skillet in less than an hour. To this day I believe that little white bearded man from Corbin, who stopped by one Sunday, stole her recipe! I think all he did was add one more herb or spice, Mom’s only had 12.
Back then the manufacturers of food gave you a reason to buy their brand. Flour came in a pretty bag called a pillowslip, that could be used for a variety of things. Sometimes Mom would sew the material into dresses for her or someone in the family and sometimes we would use them for exactly what they were called, to put our feather pillows in.
Oatmeal came with a gift too. Crystal wedding oats had glassware or aluminum kitchen ware inside as a free gifts. You can’t even get a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks now. We used everything we could get free, especially the aluminum cups, saucers, and bowls that came in the oatmeal, you couldn’t break them.
The bowls came in all sorts of colors, red, blue, green, silver, and even gold. The color that we only had one of was the gold and we thought it was really special. Everyone in the family wanted to eat out of that gold bowl. It got so bad that Dad told us one morning after breaking up a fight between three young boys over the gold bowl, that who ever got up first and proclaimed “I get the gold bowl!” had that bowl for the meal, no questions asked. After that, the Miller house didn’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.
When we heard Mom’s whistle that breakfast was ready, the house was thundering with “I get the gold bowl!” then another would yell “I done said, you’re too late!” and still another would try to top the last one “I said it earlier, you just didn’t hear me!” and then someone came up with “Well, I said it last night”! But, you get the picture.
Time passed on but every morning it was still the same thing. I don’t know why everyone wanted that gold bowl. Today, I laugh just thinking about it.
In 2008, my Mom found out she had a brain tumor and we found ourselves back at home, staying at her house, taking care of our mother. The mom, who for so many years had took care of me, the one who was always up long before daylight, every morning, frying a couple pounds of bacon or sausage, most of the time two dozen eggs, always a super large bowl of gravy, thirty or forty home made biscuits, and always oatmeal or grits. Cracker Barrel didn’t have a thing on my mom and she did it all by herself.
During Mom’s last days, her sisters and brother came in to visit for their last time. They all had moved away to other states and didn’t get to visit her as often as they wanted. One brother, Uncle Earl, who lives in Spokane, Washington, made the trip across country traveling about 2,500 miles. Aunt Angie and Uncle Bill came form Orlando, Florida and Aunt Cleo came down from Cincinnati, Ohio.
The first morning they were here, we were all getting up, starting to prepare a big country breakfast just like Mom had done for us so many years, when a loud shout came from the back bedroom, “I get the gold bowl”! It was Uncle Earl, he hadn’t forgot after all those years to claim the biggest prize of all, the treasured gold bowl.
Laughing, I walked to Mom’s room where she lay to frail to get out of bed and ask if she heard Uncle Earl proclaiming the rights to the gold bowl. There, lying in bed was my mother with the biggest smile on her face you could ever imagine. I didn’t ask, her face said it all. She couldn’t talk too much now, but I heard her say, in a weak voice “ I done said, you’re too late”!
At that moment, I think, she was back in time, a mother of 7, in her kitchen, getting a breakfast ready for her most prized possession, her family.
It was one of those moments I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 13:37
Jamup’s Market…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
Dad was excited about his chance to have a business to call his own. The business was a small grocery store in the center of Sibert, the biggest little town on Horse Creek.
The two signs on the big plate glass windows read: Jamup’s Market, “Where Pa saves Ma Money” and Jamup’s Market, “Where Prices Are Born But Not Raised”. Those were catchy little sayings, I thought, and Dad was so proud of “Jamup’s Market.
Not many people in Clay County could tell you who Rufus Miller Jr. was but nearly everyone knew my Daddy if I told them I was one of Jamup’s boys. Dad got his nickname years ago from a duo who sang on the Grand Ole Opry, “Jamup and Honey”. To most locals, Dad was “Jamup” and Momma was his “Honey”.
Dad had worked in groceries since he left the coalmines where an accident crippled him for life. Dad never even thought of signing up on disability, he wanted to get back to work.
Dad opened Jamup’s Market in 1967. Luckily, he had the work force he needed to make the busy little store a thriving business. With Momma, Gary, Ronnie, and I splitting up time between school and work, Dad’s little store prospered.
He never did try to work us without pay. At the end of a week on Saturday night he always had a check waiting on us. The pay was only .65¢ cents an hour before taxes but I still felt like a millionaire cashing my “less than $20.00” check for a week’s work. After all, the room and board was free!
Ronnie and I both learned to butcher meat from Dad. He had worked at Dobson’s many years in the meat department. Back then all the beef came in whole sides of meat. You either ordered a forequarter or a hindquarter of beef.
From the hindquarter came the round steaks, T-bone Steaks, sirloin steaks, and rump and tip roast. In the forequarter you get the rib-eye steak, chuck steak, chuck or shoulder roast, and beef ribs. With the trimmings from both sides came the hamburger we all love.
Now days, hamburger already comes pre-ground in plastic chubs. All a butcher has to do is put the meat through the grinder one more time and you have today’s hamburger. Back then hamburger was a lot more work. But, the work was worth it. It was so much better than what you can buy today.
Ground round was actually ground from round steak and roast from the hindquarters. The other hamburger meat we made came from the chuck roast and rib trimmings. Today, they sell it as ground chuck and get an extra .20¢ or .30¢ more a pound for it than regular hamburger.
We also cut up our pork from sides of hogs. With fresh ham, shoulder meat, pork chops, neckbones, ribs (with meat on them), hocks, ears, kidneys, liver and even tongues. All of the trimmings from the side of pork went into some of the best sausage you would ever want.
Dad had his own family recipe for the special seasoning that went in the sausage. It was a mixture of many spices and salt. Back then folks wouldn’t by the packaged sausage (Webber’s and Tennessee Pride) much because Dad’s was so much better.
We also had an old school bus outside the store gutted out to sell livestock feed out of. Back then most families had chickens, pigs, cows, chickens, or horses. We sold tons of livestock feed. Even with all of us being just young teenagers we could still handle the big 100-pound bags of feed with no trouble at all.
With Dad, Momma, and us boy’s we had all bases covered at the store. One day we might work in the meat department, one day in the produce, and the next day at the cash register. Each one of us could do anyone’s job.
We unloaded the grocery truck by hand, put up the merchandise, carried out groceries for customers (now that too is a thing of the past), and most of that was done after a day at school. We worked long hours most days.
It was never dull at the store. I witnessed two shootings there. One was a jealous girlfriend shooting at my Uncle Lloyd. Luckily she only “killed” 3 cans on Maxwell House coffee.
The other was an argument between two brothers-in-law who had too much to drink.
One shot the other in the foot when he wouldn’t “dance”.
I’ve waited on drunks who came in just to by lemon extract to mix with their 7-up because alcohol wasn’t legal to sell. But, I have also met friends there that have lasted a lifetime.
Now I’m not saying it was all work, it wasn’t. We still found time to play our guitars around the heating stove or play a game of checkers with some of the worlds best checker players (Gill Lewis and Woodrow Brown), and maybe even deal a hand or two of cards at times. But the playtime came after the work was done. That was the rule
My Dad always believed that a man earned his keep by the sweat of his brow. And that’s one thing I will forever live by.
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:29
The Hanging Tree
It was a dark, calm summer night. My brothers and I along with our cousins Larry, Mark, and Terry were on a mission. It consisted of a trip to a place where few had ever gone during the day, much less in total darkness.
There was safety in numbers, I kept telling myself, walking as close as I could to the bigger kids as they told the story of the hanging tree. A place on a moonless night that when the hanging tree was hit by a thrown rock, you could still hear the painful screams of the innocent woman hanged for a crime she didn’t commit.
The story had been handed down from generation to generation and now the tree was barely standing with a hollow trunk, one big limb jutting from its body about 15 feet from the ground, and a jagged top of rotting wood. It was said, that after the lady was killed by an angry mob wanting revenge, the tree simply died with her, never to live another day.
The lady, Sarah, was sitting (baby sitting) with the little blonde girl and her younger brother, Bobby Jr., while the parents of the new family made a trip to Manchester. She was the closest neighbor and had been married for several years trying to have a family of her own without any luck.
She had gotten really close to the little blonde girl, once having a dream of a child belonging to her that looked remarkably just like her. She even called the child by the same name of her girl from the dream, Molly, as a nickname. She really loved little Molly, she couldn’t have loved her more if she had really belonged to her.
The day of the accident, Sarah told the parents not to worry, that everything would be just fine. The mother and father kissed the kids goodbye and mounted the large horse they would ride to town. “Bring us back some candy, please!” the little girl shouted as her parents made their way down the muddy road to town. “We will!” her Mom yelled blowing a kiss towards the waving young kids.
It had been raining for three days in the early spring of that year. The sun had finally shown itself after a long absence. Birds were singing as the young lady made the walk towards the house with a child holding each hand, skipping as children sometimes do.
“Let’s play a game, Sarah!” little Molly said, her big brown eyes gleaming with excitement. Being cooped-up for three days in the house, Sarah just couldn’t say no.
“What kind of game do you want to play?” Sarah asked.
“How about hide and seek?” little Molly hurriedly answered.
“OK, I’ll close my eyes and count to 100, and then I’ll come looking for you.” Sarah said, smiling at the joy of being in the company of the kids, she loved so much.
“Alright then, but count slow. Give us time to hide really good.” Molly answered back, running in her yellow dress as she hurried to her secret place that only she knew. Her little brother followed along and Molly scolded Bobby Jr. to hide in a place of his own, not giving her away.
“One, two, three, four,….” Sarah slowly counted as the kids ran laughing, to their hiding place they knew too well. Nothing could be heard as Sarah finished her count, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred. “Ready or not, here I come!”
Bobby Jr. was easy to spot in his red shirt and blue pants, as he hid just under the wagon parked in the drive to the barn. “One, two, three on Bobby Jr.!” Sarah called out as she ran to beat him back to base.
Now, it was time to look for Molly, she wouldn’t be so easy. Sarah looked everywhere she thought the little girl would hide, but no Molly. After searching for several minutes, she began to get a little nervous. Molly had chosen a place Sarah couldn’t find, so she called out “I give up Molly, you win!” But Molly didn’t answer.
Again she called out “Molly come on in, you win!” Still there was no answer. Now, Sarah was beginning to get worried, running as she called out her name again and again, but not a sound was heard.
Sarah then thought of the stream where Molly liked to splash and play and hurriedly ran towards it calling out her name over and over. Her heart fell to her feet as she saw a yellow cotton dress tangled in the water under a fallen tree spanning the stream. She had tried to cross the stream by walking the tree and had slipped and fell into the raging water.
There was never a trial and Sarah didn’t really try to defend herself in the death of the little girl she loved so much. She blamed herself for Molly’s death and was hanged by the family of the little girl, taking the blame fully.
As we stood before the hanging tree that night, I knew the story too well. Eight boys picked up a rock and on the count of three, all were thrown at the tree with several hitting their mark. And then, a scream like that of a lady was heard clearly by all as we raced towards home running as fast as we could.
I never did return to the hanging tree again after dark. Years later when I was passing it in my car, I wouldn’t look at it. I would speed up and duck my head low until I was far past it.
When I was in my early 30’s, during a stormy night a strong wind blew the hanging tree down and the legend was no more. The tree slowly rotted into the ground it once grew so strong in.
I never knew where the scream came from that night, but I suspect it was Sarah, still grieving for little Molly, the daughter she never had.
Today when I pass the place where the hanging tree once stood, I sometimes think I can still hear Sarah crying for little Molly, as a cold chill runs up my spine and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
“Molly! Molly! Come on in, you win!”
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