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Autobiography and Letters of Everett K. Spees, Sr. Recovered From a CD Copy of the Hard Drive of His Computer on August 13, 2002.

 

Note about this material. Dad had been working on autobiography drafts for years, and had periodically shown them to members of the family. After he died time passed, and his children began to wonder about the drafts. Bill Spees had the contents of Everett's hard drive transferred to archival tape within a few days after Everett's death, and the computer was reformatted and passed along to Mary Alice.  Over the next few years (1995 to 1999), the "permanent" tape format became an antique, and unreadable; Bill was able to get the tape archive transferred to a Zip disk, in return for an old tape drive that couldn't read the tape.  Later, he started making numerous CDs in connection with his computer science Ph.D. studies, and eventually transferred the Zip disks to CD distributed copies to Mary Alice and Everett (Jr.).

Over time the software of the period he had used was scattered.  In August, 2002, Everett Jr. initiated an effort to modernize and publish this material.

As he wrote this material over several years, Dad had different notations identifying the chapters. Chapter five seems to be missing, either never written or actually incorporated into the drafts due to an oversight in numbering the chapters.

We have corrected some typos and misspellings. We also have a manuscript written by hand from his sister, Doy, and a future family project will be to combine the material and illustrate it with family photos on the website established by Bill Spees, Ekssr.tripod.com, and possibly as a desktop publication for the descendants.

 

A Spees Story: Foreword

 

In the mid 1770's there was a lot of turmoil in Europe. Many people came to the American Colonies at that time. King Frederick II was one of the most enlightened kings of Europe. Still many Germans came to the American Colonies. By now the American Colonists were feeling neglected by the British Throne. They were not represented in Parliament, and they felt that they were being taxed too much without representation. Thus it was that a rebellion started.  The Colonists were ill equipped to fight a war, but they were able to keep the British troops occupied. Fighting this kind of  rebellion was not appealing to the British Army.  So the British turned to some German Counts for  mercenary soldiers.  Thus around 1775, three German brothers  from the area of Kasel, Conrad, Henrich, and Frederick Spies (or Spiess) came to be part of one such group of German soldiers.    They served under  the command of a German Colonel Rall in Trenton, where British soldiers and their allies were quartered for the winter. On Christmas Eve, while Colonel Rall was partying and drinking heavily, George Washington's troops crossed the Delaware River. There, in the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Washington's troops took the defenders of Trenton completely by surprise, and easily  took the town.

Colonel Rall died in this battle, as did one of the Spies brothers; another was injured. At that point, Frederick Spies, defected to George Washington's Army. Subsequently he served until the Revolution was ended.

 

Much later, a grandson of Christon Spees, Everett Finley Spees, married Eudora Watson, on August 8, 1882.  On May 16, 1883, their first child was born, a son they named Walter Lee Spees.  He was the first of several children. When he grew to manhood, he met, fell in love with, and married Mary Eliza Perry, the daughter of Kencheon Perry whose family had migrated West from North Carolina to Tennessee.  Kencheon Perry had married Sarah Jane Adams, and had moved to the area of Wingo, Kentucky.  

 

Thus it .was that my family had its start my parents, Walter, and Mary Eliza were married in Kentucky on November 26, 1902. They started their married life in his parents’ "Weaning house.”   This arrangement was designed to give the young married couple the experience of living separately, but not too far away from the protection of the family. It lasted for about a year, until his brother Roy was ready to marry Bessie Kahler. Then Walter and Mary Eliza moved to a rented farm nearby. There were two or three more moves in the next nine years. The first two children, Herbert, and Denise were born in Graves County in the general rural area of Mayfield, Kentucky.  Herbert was born on July 17, 1904, and Denise on November 25, 1905.  Their next child, Doy,  was born on January 1, 1910. By then the family had moved to Palmersville,   in Weakley County, Tennessee.

 

CHAPTER   1                 

 

Early years:                        

 

It all started for me on a Wednesday afternoon, October 25, 1911.  My parents were in a field, digging their crop of sweet potatoes.  The three children, Herbert, Denise, and Doy were playing under a tree while my mother and father were busily digging potatoes. My dad would run a turning plow down the rows. This would expose most of the potatoes. The others had to be scratched out of the loose red soil by hand. My mother  started getting some cramps in her abdomen, but she had been bending over the rows. She was seven months pregnant, but she thought little of hard work at that point in her pregnancy. After all she was a strong 25 year-old woman.  Still, as she continued, the pains became more severe. So she mentioned them to my dad. When they persisted, they decided that perhaps she was having contractions. Anyhow, to be on the safe side, my dad told her to take the children to the house, and he would ride the horse over to Dr. Biggs office, and ask him to come by the house, and see her.  Old doctor George was out on another call, so Young doctor George came to the house.  He was quite sure that she was having contractions. Soon thereafter I came into the world two months ahead of schedule. I have been in a hurry ever since I just missed being born in the sweet potato patch.                                 

 

Palmersville, Tennessee, the place of my birth was not really a town, it was a place. There was the General Store , owned and operated by Charley  Pennycost and his family. They sold everything from calico dress material, to horse collars.  There was a Post Office in the store. At that time there was no need for a service station. There were a few White Steamers, and model T Fords around, but they could go to Dresden, the county seat for service. There was a  bank, an undertaker, a Baptist, and a Methodist Church. There was also a High School. There were probably twenty to twenty five families in the village.

 

It would be presumptive on my part to say, I remembered  anything from the period of my life when we lived in Palmersville.  My first memory was of a special occasion when my younger brother Allen had his baby picture taken. He was two years my junior, and must have been about six months old when the photographer came. I remember his sitting in a ladder back chair for the picture.  By then we had bought a farm. It was about two miles from Palmersville. The Malcom Capps farm. He lived nearby, and had a son about my age  with whom I played. Another of my early memories was the death of Mrs. Capps.  I think the reason for this memory was my parents leaving me with a neighbor, Mrs. Harrison Hicks, while my folks went to the funeral. This was not without incident. I had seen the horse drawn funeral coach start down the dusty road, followed by the surrey's, buggies, and wagons that made up the funeral procession. The baby sitter had closed and fastened the front gate to keep me in, but there was a path worn down several inches in the dirt under the gate. So I simply crawled under the gate  and started chasing the  horse-drawn vehicles to catch my folks, they were embarrassed, but the baby sitter was able to catch me, and bring me back.  Baby  sitter in todays terms is not appropriate. These were neighbors doing a favor for their friends, no thought was given to charging, or paying.  These  favors were always repaid with  help in some way.  This was my first experience with death.  I believe Miz Minnie Capps had died in childbirth. At the time I was too young to know. I could not have been more than three years old.  After that death visited neighbors, and relatives all too often.  Still, I was not to experience it in the immediate family for several years, until the death of my grandfather  Perry.  He was ill at our home for  several weeks, and died of pneumonia

 

At the Capps  farm, my dad soon started a small business. He built a small store near the house. This was stocked with a variety of staple groceries, candies, gum, snuff, chewing tobacco, thread, etc.  These items were sold to neighbors. Also, he had a  box built to fit on the front of the  farm wagon chassis with chicken coops to the back. With this he  took  groceries over several routes four or five days of the week.  The box was stocked with staples, and he bought chickens, and eggs, or traded groceries for them. This was known as peddling.  At the end of the week these chickens had gained weight from good feeding. They were then taken to town where there was a poultry house, and sold at a profit. The  Poultry House shipped  freight car loads of chickens (live), and eggs to Chicago, and Eastern  markets. These cars were equipped for an attendant . A man was hired by the  poultry dealer to feed these chickens all the way to market. A good man could increase the weight  by several hundred pounds on the way to market.

 

During this period, a cousin. Terrence Perry, and his wife Evelyn needed a place to live with their two sons, James and  xolon.  Provisions were made for them to live in the store building for a few months. They used the kitchen and other facilities of the house while they were there.  This provided my brother Allen, and me two boys to play with, other than Alton Capps, and Dorsey Hicks who lived nearby.  Terrance was  the son of my uncle Marshall Perry, but he was nearer the age of my parents. This is just one example of  taking care of  people who were  close to the family, related, or not.  There were few professional tradesmen in the rural area, so if someone needed to build a barn, or a house, it was made known in the neighborhood. and everyone participated.  Usually a barn could be "raised" in a day.  This was often true with a house.  The lumber was rough sawed on the farm. and all of the men present would set about building the framework.  By then the foundation and the floor joist were already in place. When a side was finished it would be raised into position, and nailed up. this was done with  all of the walls.. Then the rafters were added, and soon a building was completed at little, or no cost to the owner.  The roof was of shake shingles made by the owner. This process was called 'riving,' it was done by splitting a board from a length of oak log. The size and thickness depended on the way the  oak split down the grain of the wood.  When the owner was in a hurry, and did not season the wood properly, these shingles would  shrink and curl away from the roof.  Oak would split  easily when it was not seasoned, but is a very hard wood after it is dried.

 

When the person could afford to buy finished lumber, the ceilings,  sidewalls, and floors were finished in tongue   and groove pine lumber.  However, in general, the floors were  oak boards nailed as close together as they could be butted. Invariably, there was enough shrinkage in the lumber to form cracks between the boards. Also, depending on the wealth of the owner, or lack thereof, the walls would be covered with thick building paper, or even newspaper.  It was several years before I saw plastered walls, and hard wood finished floors.

 

There are many  early memories that may not be in chronological order. One of my earliest memories concerns my view of women.  It seemed to me that every woman that came around, wanted to hold me on her lap.  They all seemed very buxom, and I would slide off their laps  if they weren't holding on to me.  Another memory is about entertainment. There were few toys, sometimes there were wood wheeled wagons. These varied in size from a child's toy, to one that was big enough to ride on.  The older boys, including my brother Herbert, who was seven years older than me: made use of old buggy, or wagon chassis  to ride down steep hills. The  boy in charge, the oldest, or the biggest , would sit between the front wheels, just back of the front axle. He would steer the mechanism with his feet on the front axle. This axle was pivoted in the center.  All of the other kids that were large enough would pile on the back, usually on loose oak boards.

 

These vehicles would  attain pretty high speed on a steep hill. There were many times when the driver would loose control, particularly when he came to a turn in the dirt road.  There were lots of spills. Fortunately, I never did see any serious injury. Of course, these rides were discreet. They were  never taken if the parents were  nearby.

 

In the absence of  the excitement of seeing new things. The Sears and Roebuck catalog was a great source of entertainment. It was only possible to see this marvelous book after the parents, and all of the older siblings had their turn.  One of the most exciting things that I saw was a small wagon with stake sides, and wood spoke wheels. It was pulled by a large Billy  goat in the pictures. We referred to it as a 'goat wagon.' To have owned one of those, and the goat to pull it would have been  like heaven to me. Just to see a real one, and not the picture would have been an enormous thrill. Of course I never did. My biggest dream was to own a Shetland pony. These dreams finally faded as I grew older, and realized that they were impossible dreams.  But  Sears and Roebuck was a separate dream world. There were things in that book that my young mind could not fathom. It also served another function. When the new one came, the old one was relegated to the two holer out back,, and used as toilet paper.

 

My first school was at Palmersville, Tennessee. It was a two-room school house, one  for the first eight grades, and one for high school. There was no kindergarten, in fact, I didn't hear that word until several years later. Tennessee was behind the times in many ways in 1917, when I started to school. There was no Bureau of Vital Statistics until 1914. I discovered this when  I asked for a Birth Certificate.  There were some advantages to having seven  higher classes in the same room. Perhaps, by listening to the  older children recite their lessons, I was able to  gain some additional knowledge. Of course, radio, and television today, provides much more, and far superior information.  At any rate, when I was six, or within two months of six, I simply walked the two miles, or so to school with my three older siblings.  When it was too stormy, or we were needed to help out on the farm, we just didn't go. The three R's were emphasized, and there was little else. There were no good libraries, so we just learned the basics. There was great emphasis on common sense, ethical behavior, and self reliance. We were less well educated, but more able to make it on our own than recent generations have been. Fortunately, we did have inherent intelligence, and our rudimentary education taught us how to learn.

 

It was only two or three years after we bought the Malcom Capps farm, until my dad bought a bigger one. It was a mile, or so down the road. It had no buildings on it, so we built a new house.  We also had to  have a barn. This was an occasion for all the neighbor men to come in, and much like the Amish, they all  set about building it  as described above. Often a house was up in a couple of days. There was no electrical wiring, nor plumbing.  So when the outside  shell was finished the neighbors left the interior finishing to the owners.

 

It was at this home that my first real fear came, My dad was called upon to register for the draft for World War I. He was never called up for service because there was five children by then. The word war was incomprehensible to me at four years old. But I heard my parents talking of the possibility that he would have to go away from home. This was what was alarming to me.  This was about 1916 , or 1917. I remember my brother, Herbert was  only 13 years old, or so, but he wanted to volunteer.  When the  Armistice was signed, I was seven years old. I still remember hearing gun fire. I was not able to figure out why people would be shooting their guns if the war was over.

 

There were two events, in my early years, that were really exciting. One was the  County Fair.  If the crops were 'laid by,' (meaning that cultivation was finished for the summer,) ; and the tobacco was cut, and in the barn,  we were all loaded into the covered wagon, and taken to the fair.  There were harness races, and exhibition of the finest poultry, and livestock.  The women displayed  their fanciest quilts, canned fruit, and vegetables.  They also had contests for the fanciest  baked goods, and other home crafts. In addition to all of this, there was always a carnival.  Rides, games of chance, and side shows that the barkers announced in such a manner that the young ones remained ignorant of the real goodies inside their tent.  In later years, barnstormers would bring their World War I Jenny to the fair. They would fly  very low, and do some very scary stunt flying.  The other big event was visiting our grand parents.

 

My mother and  father would load all of us in the covered wagon, and we would start the trip in mid afternoon. We would reach the Obion River by evening where we would camp for the night. Cooking was done over an open fire. My mother always had plenty of food along, but my dad would go in the river, and catch large fish with his hands. He would feel along  logs that had fallen in the water. When he would feel a fish, he moved his hand very gently forward until he could grab the fish by the mouth and gill. These fish were called  buffalo, and catfish usually, and one was usually big enough to serve all of us.  Next morning we would start out early, after a hearty breakfast. It would take all day to make the trip to grandpa Perry's house.

 

Grandpa Kencheon Perry, and grandma lived in a large house that was covered with commercial siding.  Grandpa was a tall man with white hair, and a white beard. I always thought he looked like Santa Claus in those early years.  He and grandma would sit in their rocking chairs, side by side.  She always wore a shawl around her shoulders, and she was a very small woman, they both smoked clay pipes. A wood box filled with homegrown tobacco was on the floor between them. When they filled their small  pipes, grandpa would pick up a live   coal from the fire place and light both their pipes. It was from Grandpa Perry that I got my middle name.  They were Primitive Baptist, and lived near the church. This church was similar to Presbyterian in its theology to the extent that it

was based on  the teachings of Paul, and was predestinationist from Calvin. However, they were also different. There was no musical instrument in church, all singing was acapella.  It was left to the person to approach them for membership.  There was never an invitation  to become a member. There was no Sunday  School, and no Missions.  The

 belief was that if the Lord moved you, you would seek to belong. Also, the ministers were not sent to a seminary. If they were 'called to preach,' they could heed the call. There was no church budget, the offering was free will. Usually, the minister accepted the hospitality of the congregation, and gifts of chickens, and other food stuff. In most cases, he was a circuit rider, serving three to four churches. Thus, there was only one meeting a month.

During the summer there was a revival, but without alter call so common to other Baptist. It was usually held in a brush arbor because of the heat, and humidity.  It was these that I remember most about these grandparents in my early youth.

 

Grandpa Everett Finley Spees, and grandma lived several miles away, near Mayfield, Ky.

A visit to both was usually combined into one trip.  After our visit with our Perry grandparents, it would take another day to grandpa Spees' house.  As I  remember, there was always more levity there. My uncle Roy lived nearby. He had no children, but he was a great entertainer of young relatives. One of the things that I remember most about him was his short stature, like my dad. Also he always laughed the song "Turkey in the straw."

Aunt Phair was the youngest. I suppose she was my favorite for many reasons. Not the least of which, she was only eight years older than  me, and I was born on her birthday. That always made us close. I dearly loved all the others. My grandpa always wore a moustache. I was always trying to get him to shave it off. He never would. Then I learned that he had lost his teeth while chasing a cow. It seems the pig got out of the pen, and he was trying to chase it back in when he ran under a clothes line. It caught him in the mouth, and tore most of his teeth loose. He refused to get dentures, and spent the remainder of his life without teeth with the fact hidden behind his moustache.

 

The Spees family was large. There were three daughters, and five sons. Aunt Edith was a spinster. Not much was said about it, but I inquired of my father who told me that she had been in love once. Her  future husband was killed somehow, and she never married until she was around fifty years old when she married a widower.  Uncle Vernon was the next younger son to uncle Roy. He always worked on the Illinois Central Railroad.  Of course he started out as a farmer. Uncle Tom was an adventurer. He always had a yen for travel, so he went to Oklahoma where he homesteaded a farm.  There he married an Oklahoma woman, and was a farmer there through the birth of two sons.  He eventually returned to Kentucky for a visit, and was accompanied back by Uncle Noble the youngest son.  Uncle Noble was only about eighteen, or nineteen when he married the younger sister of uncle Tom's wife.  Both uncle Tom's wife, and uncle Noble died about 1918. Uncle Noble had  a daughter , Adella who was about six months old when he died.  Uncle Tom brought  Obron and Wayne back to Kentucky after his wife's death. He remained in Kentucky where he remarried,  and had two more sons, J.T. and Charles.  Uncle Garth was most like me in coloration. He had a fair complected ,and had  blond hair.  He too worked on the railroad, after the farm. He had three sons, and two daughters.

 

It was always a big thrill for me to visit this large family. It was equally nice to have them  drive down to visit us. They  all had model T. Fords long before we had a car.

 

Another thing I remember about that farm. We had  a very big snow one winter when I was about five. I suspect that it was unusual for there. I remember my dad scooped out a path to the barn, and the snow on either side was above my head. That same year. Allen, my younger brother, and I went to spend two months at my grandpa Spees home. I had my fifth birthday, and Allen had his third while we were there. When we returned we had a  new sister, Hazel. We had not known that we were gone to make it easier for my mom during the later part of her pregnancy.  

 

The youngest, and last, a son  was born at that farm.  He was named Lewis Dalton . He was born in  1918.  When I was very young I remember that Spring was my favorite season. I would  walk through the woods, and see new life springing up everywhere. There were  delicate little things blooming along the small streams where I would sit, and watch the clear water flow by. I usually had my bare feet in it.  There were many memorable things about those springs, The daffodils, the dogwood in bloom, the damp ground under my bare feet. Everything was new, just like in the Sears & Roebuck Catalog, except more perfect. Winter was nice too.  When I was a bit older, I would track Rabbits through the snow, and find them hiding in the dry sage grass.  There was a very old 22 caliber rifle in the family, but the firing pin was so worn, and the spring so weak that it would seldom fire.  However, the few times that it did I was able to kill the Rabbit. I was at point blank range. Trapping rabbits in a trap made of oak boards with  a trigger inside to drop the door when the rabbit passed it on his way to the bait was not only fun, it was a source of fresh meat for the family.

 

 

Shortly after World War I, our farm was well established, then my dad bought a new, and bigger one.  This one was the last while I was home. It was much more fertile. It looked like everything would be fine.  However, this was not the case.  It wasn't long before we discovered that the creek overflowed at the slightest provocation.  This would flood the most fertile field. It was caused by the farmer just to the south of our farm. He was a United States Congressman,  Garrett, and was away from home most of the time.  He turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the farmers up the creek, to clear out the fallen trees from the creek on his  farm. These tress were effectively damming the creek causing  water to back up on these farms. In spite of enlargement of the creek through our farm, we could have it flood from rains up stream. I remember several times when there was dry dust on the bridges, and the field full of water.

 

The first tragedy  was the death of grandpa Perry.  He was only seventy four years old when he died of pneumonia. He had been sick in bed at our house, but I think he had been taken to aunt Ida Kimble's house when he died on  December 20, 1920. I was  just past nine years old when this happened.  As mentioned above, I had, by then, been to several funerals of family friends, but now death had visited our family. This made it more real to me. Grandpa always reminded me of pictures of Santa Claus with his ample white hair, moustache and beard. Unlike Santa Claus, he was tall and trim, he lacked the big belly.

 

Grandma Spees was next. She died in April of 1922, I was ten  at the time. I remember my dad was preparing to go to her funeral as soon as we heard about her death. He sent me into the pasture to get the mare that he was going to use to go to the funeral.  As I went through the field, I remember thinking that I was supposed to cry. I couldn't quite do it. I loved her very much,, but somehow, the tears just would not come. Uncle Noble George Spees had died  in 1919  when I was eight. I was told   of his death. Also, I remember him before he died, but he was a long way away from us, and it did not impress me as much as someone like grandpa Perry who was close by, and had just spent time in our home. 

 

On this farm, near Como, Tennessee, we had a Tenant house.  It was good that we did. My aunt Lena Lewis lived in that house when the next disaster struck.  My mother had  gall stones , and had to be taken to Murray, Kentucky for surgery.  This was major surgery then. I think she had to be in the hospital for something like a month. My dad took her there, and stayed with her.  My older brother Herbert was in charge of the farm in their absence.  He was very ambitious to make everything work. This was about 1921, when he would have been seventeen, and I was ten He put me in a field on a disk with four horses

pulling the disk. Under optimum conditions, I could have handled this. The horses moved pretty fast going down grade, but this didn't bother me. Soon, however, my brother, Allen  who was eight, came to the field. He wanted to ride on the front of the disk. I could see no reason to refuse him. All went well until the disk ran over a  tree root that was protruding  from the ground, or was just under the surface.  This caused the disk to bounce violently because it was moving fast, down grade. The bounce threw Allen off, and in the path of the disk blades. I think there were six, or eight on each side.  About four, or five of these ran over his legs, and feet. They were sharp, and each one made a curved cut. One almost removed his four smaller toes on one foot. The others were serious cuts up his leg.  To make matters worse, he got up, and started running to the house. It was  perhaps a quarter mile, and he was running through sandy, loose soil.  I could not get the horses stopped in time to assist him. Aunt Lena was called immediately. She was a registered Nurse. She called the doctor who was a general practitioner. His office was several miles away, and it took him several hours to get there. She had staunched the flow of blood, but the wounds were swelling.  When the doctor finally did arrive, he could not hold Allen still enough, even with aunt Lena's help, to suture these wound together.  He simply bandaged them together, as best he could. Allen 12/08/93 still carries large circular scars seventy years later to

 

remind him. The event was blocked from my memory  to a large degree. I was extremely sorry that it happened to him, but I did not carry a feeling of guilt. There was absolutely no way that I could have prevented it.  I could have insisted that he not ride, but I was ten, and my judgement was not mature enough to realize the dangers.

 

Aunt Lena continued to care for him. Then my next older sister came down with Typhoid.  This was caused, of course, from the many flies that seemed to swarm around farms before the advent of such things as DDT. There were sprays made from petroleum distillates that were used on the cows, but nothing kept the flies down.  Doy was also cared for by aunt Lena, assisted by my older sister  Denise.   These things all happened in the spring when the crops should have been planted.   When finally, my dad brought mom home from the hospital it was getting late in the season. Then one of those things happened that renews faith in mankind.  About twenty neighbors came to our farm. In one day their plows had turned the soil, prepared it and planted the whole corn crop.


 

 

 

 

CHAPTER  2

 

Morals and  Dogma:

 

Once a month, we were all dressed up in our best from the Sears Roebuck catalog, loaded in the wagon, or surrey, and taken to church.  As mentioned above, our parernts were Primitive Baptist. This was a very small sect.  Each congregation ruled itself. There was no organized hierarc10hy, only a commonality in belief. The ministers were not educated for the ministry,  but answered the call when called by the Almighty to preach.  The service was not organized. It followed  a format in order of worship, but there were no limitations on the length of sermons. So, the preacher  would preach as long as he liked. Sometimes it seemed to young children that these sermons had no end. It was not unusual for one to continue for one to two hours. They were  never shorter than an hour.

 

At the end of the service, there was usually a big meal served under the oak trees outside the church. The church was a single large room without facilities for eating inside.  There was no Sunday School. All religious education was from the minister's sermons.  So, no need for other rooms in the church.  There were long rows of  tables built of rough oak lumber under the trees.  These were long platforms. Each lady spent hours preparing her favorite dishes for the occasion. She brought her best table cloth, and spread her portion proudly. Each brought dishes and silverware for their own family, and a few extras for  singles who happened in. Sometimes just in time to eat. These meals were the most sumptuous that one ever experienced.  Fried chicken was a staple, but there was beef, baked ham, pork sausage, and rabbit for meat.  There were vegetables of all kinds, usually cooked for hours in an iron pot hung over the fire in the fireplace. Everyone shared the food from anywhere on the table. Each lady turned out her best effort when it came to dessert. There were all kinds of fruit pies, but my favorite was the coconut, or chocolate pie with a high meringue on top. There was a variety of cakes as well.; In a  way, this big dinner made the long, long sermons  more tolerable to sit through for the very young.

 

Communion was held once or twice a year.  At Communion, only members participated. The women sat on one side of the church, and the men on the other. The elements of unleavened bread, and wine were served. In addition, each member took turns washing the feet of another. The families brought wash basins, and towels for this. This was designed to show the humility of the members. It seemed to me that they were too self effacing. They were not much for preaching Hell fire and damnation. For if one were to be saved, it was strictly by Grace, through faith.  The children were not dismissed during Communion even though they were not eligible to participate. They moved out of the way, and watched the ceremony.  If a young person wanted to become a member, it was entirely up to him, or her. There  was no pressure to join. They were certain that the spirit would move the young ones when the time was ripe.

 

Occasionally, during the summer months, there was singing in the afternoon. When this occurred we were there  all day. The singing was acapella, and it was usually by quartets but always religious in nature.  The quartets  were similar to barbershop quartets.  From time to time in the singing  the entire congregation was given a chance to join in a number.  On these occasions and in regular service singing, I  always marveled at my dad's deep bass voice. He was a small man, only about 5' 4",  but he had a really  big pleasant voice.  Unlike some Baptist churches that  I have  attended in the South,  The Primitive Baptist  didn't use hymns that sound like country and western music. Their regular songs were, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, The Old Rugged Cross, There  is a Fountain  Filled With Blood, In The Sweet By and By, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I'll be there, etc.

 

The really big church function was the association, referred to by most as the "sosation."

This was the time when  all of the Primitive Baptist churches in the area would meet together.  These lasted for several days, and gave the  preachers a chance to compare notes. They all took turns preaching.  It took a  devout member to  really enjoy these meetings. But when the parents went to church, so would the children.  Unless you have experienced six to seven hours on a wood church pew, you would be unable to fathom the hardship of sitting through one of these.  One of my brothers refused to go to any church for a few years after he became an adult. He said that he had been taken to these events whether or not he wanted to go. So he planned to exercise his right not to go, when he was grown. In the end, he was the only one of the siblings that became a Primitive Baptist.

 

The theology of the Primitive Baptist was  Calvinistic. On of the strongest tenets was  predestination. They firmly believed that everything that happened was predestined by God.  They also based most of their teachings on the Apostle Paul In that respect, ,they were similar to Presbyterians.  At any rate, when  my family was starting, we shopped around for a church, and joined the Presbyterian church.

 

My early impressions of God were of a very stern father who loved his children. While he loved them, he would take no guff from them. You either did his bidding, or you  faced some very rough consequences. On the other hand, Jesus was a very tender loving person. He would let you get away with practically anything, so long as you told him you were sorry, and tried not to do it again. The Trinity was beyond my comprehension. I did not think of these all powerful entities being one and the same. Of course, with predestination, it was pretty well out of your personal control. If a person was bad, or foul tempered, God had just made him that way, and one just had to contend with him.

 

Our parents taught us the ramifications of evil, virtue, love and hate. They taught us not to judge other people. For if we did, we might be judged by God and found wanting. Of course, it was quite hard to avoid judgement if a larger boy stepped on your foot, or hit you because you refused to do as he said. It was also hard to be nice to someone whom you felt mistreated, or took advantage of your parents kindness, and hospitality.

 

My dad tried to teach us by example. I remember  when he took Allen, and me to the County Court to hear a murder case.  One of my older cousins had gotten involved with "Bootlegging." He and his brother-in-law had a "moonshine" still on his farm. This was several miles out in the country, away from the prying eyes of the Federal Revenue Officers, and the county sheriff. So it was a relatively safe operation. The dealers would drive to the farm, pick up a load of booze, pay for it and cautiously work their way back to town. On one trip, two customers came in black-face. Nothing much was thought of this. The cousin recognized them. But when they loaded the merchandise in the car, they started to drive off without  paying. The brother-in-law tried to stop them, and was shot by one of the customers. He died at the scene.

 

We were sitting in court for the murder case when it ended suddenly with the defense resting its case. That case went to the jury, and another started in the same court room. My dad must not have heard that this was to be a rape case. When the case started the girl who had been raped was first to take the stand.  She had the child that resulted from the rape sitting on her lap. I had never heard of rape before. So when her testimony started, I was surprised to hear that her assailant had  taken her out of the buggy, taken the cushion out, and laid her on it then proceeded to rape her.  When the defense counsel asked her why she didn't resist,  she said that he pulled out a long shinny thing which she took to be a gun. So she didn't dare to resist. At the first recess my dad took us out of that trial.  He never did explain rape, but I deduced that since the girl had a baby, it must have to do with that. The lesson that he had intended was the extreme seriousness of murder.

 

During breaks in these trials, he took us to the county jail where we could see prisoners behind bars. The sheriff's deputy also showed us some copper coils, and tanks that he said were destroyed whisky stills.

 

10I remember my folks keeping a gallon of whisky in the house for medicinal purposes only. I can recall that when a family member had a cold, or flu like symptoms they were given a hot toddy. This consisted of about a tablespoon full of whisky in a cup of boiling hot  water, and quite a bit of sugar.  Then the Volstead Act was passed making the manufacture, sale, or use of alcoholic beverages illegal. When that act was adopted, my folks disposed of their jug of whisky. If there was ever a drop of booze in the house after that, they didn't know about it. This rule held from then on. Even after this Act was  repealed.  They had seen the results of public drunkenness, and wanted no part of it for themselves, nor their children.

 

However, my mother was prone to concocting  natural herb medicines. The folks also liked the remedies sold by  itinerant Medicine men who travelled around in  a horse-drawn vehicle similar to a motor van. They usually put on some sort of show to attract a crowd in the small towns. Then they would extoll the curative values of their herb remedies. Usually, these were made of some bitter herb with a high alcoholic content. But since they were for medicinal purposes, it was perfectly legitimate to take them often. I think the only content that helped the patient feel better was the alcohol.

 

My sister Denise, in her older years, lived, and worked in Chicago. There she was known to have taken beer quite regularly, and at times something stronger. She knew there was nothing alcoholic permitted at home. So when she visited , she would take a walk to visit a bar. At times, she was heard to ask, "Mama do you have any of that herb tea that you make?"  Mom was pleased that  Denise liked her tonic. Actually, she hated the taste, but liked the alcoholic effect.

 

The "straight and narrow" was a rugged road to travel.  In their dogma there was room to err. Really, it was human to make mistakes, but one should learn from them.  Then too, one would not know until the judgement, whether or not he had been found wanting. It was all by the Grace of God, through faith.  Since the teaching elders were not schooled in the Bible, the parables were often taken literally. For example, "It will be harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Thus, no rich man could expect to enter Heaven.

 

Chastity was  the expected, the subject was taboo, but there was too little freedom from parental scrutiny for one to go very far astray.  There was safety in numbers, and children, particularly female, were not permitted to go out alone. There was always another sister, or young brother to tag along, ,just in case of temptation.  To be sure, there were instances of single girls becoming pregnant, but they, along with their families were usually thought of as trash. They were ostracized by their neighbors. I only remember one such case. That was the Murdock family. Rosalie was  somewhere around twenty five, I suppose, when we moved close by. Her family was just not visited by the other neighbors. I was not privy to any scandalous information about her history. But several years after miz Minnie Capps died , Mr. Malcom married her. From then on, he was not considered one of our close friends. There was nothing overt, people just didn't get around to going there.  I suppose the adults knew, but it remained a mystery for me.

 

This was years before the advent of  books recommending gentle methods of  bringing up children.  At least, if they were in existence, they were not known in our  area. Our parents firmly believed in the saying that, "To spare the rod is to spoil the child."  Discipline was certain, and  swift. The severity usually fit the breach. It was usually administered  with a switch applied to the posterior. There were no injuries from these corporal punishments, but they were not soon forgotten.  My dad always said that it hurt him more than it did me, and I believe it. I could  see the pain in his eyes.  I finally realized  that  if I refused to cry, it would defeat the purpose. So, I became defiant, I refused to cry, and  he no longer applied the rod

 

It may sound unusual in these days, but I do not remember ever hearing my dad tell my other that he loved her, nor did I ever hear her tell him that she loved him. I was never told that they loved me, nor did I ever hear any of my siblings told that they were loved. Yet, I knew by their deeds that each of us loved the other very much.  For example, after the death of my mother, my dad would not travel far from Michigan, for fear that he would die, and not be buried by "Liza."

As young children, we would fight with each other, but we would immediately come to the rescue if someone outside the family dared mistreat one of our brothers or sisters. I saw love expressed between my parents by loving glances, or a gentle pat on the rump if they thought none were looking. But again, it was never expressed in words, unless it were when they were completely alone.

 

Perhaps it is things like this that shapes the adult. I find that I am not very effective in expressing love verbally. I just expect those close to me to understand that I love them, just as I knew that my parents loved me without the verbal expression.

 

One other important thing to realize was that " a man's words is his bond," that integrity is one of the most important traits of character. I have seen my dad drive miles to refund ten cents or less that he had inadvertently overcharged someone on his "peddlin" route.  I wondered why it couldn't wait until the next trip,  but, he thought it had to be done while it had just happened.

I was inclined to think that  this was a bit foolish, but when I became mature, I started to realize that  it was important.  While they had very little in a material way, they had the complete faith and trust of everyone who knew them.

 

 

It was not all sweetness and light. To be sure my parents had their disagreements. However, they were so rare that any angry talk between them was a very upsetting thing for me. They always worked well together, and enjoyed the little recreation that they had  together.  They  always ended spats quickly, and were very nice to each other afterward.

 

We followed the rule of six days work, and the seventh was a day of rest.  Work, other than normal chores, was frowned upon.  Meals were cooked, beds made, the animals taken care of, and that sort of thing, but no other work was scheduled. There were times, however, when it was necessary to do other work. These were emergencies that either threatened health, or the crops. Then, my dad would say, " Jesus said that if your ox falls in a ditch on the Sabbath, you should pull him out. So, it is permissible for us to do this work, on the Sabbath."   In later years, my folks moved to Michigan. There he saw people working without regard for the Sabbath. It seemed like a heathen practice to him, but I think he finally accepted it as  a normal way of life in the city.


 

Chapter 3  Country Life:

 

The house was always too small for our large family, so there was little privacy.  We usually had very large rooms, but few of them. There was usually a loft. This was the space under the roof which is usually termed an attic now. Ours had  a stairway, and  there was enough room under the roof that one could walk  upright, except for the space toward the sides under the slope of the roof.  When the  shake shingles had thoroughly dried, and shrunk, it wasn't unusual to see beams of light entering through these  cracks.  If there was no floor covering, it was also possible for light, and heat to come through the floor cracks.  There were no built-ins, nor were there any clothes closets. This didn't matter too much because there were no wardrobes, as such. There were the overalls, and cotton dresses that were used fore work, and each person had one outfit that  was for dress up to go to church. Dishes were done in a dish pan, and baths were taken in wash tubs.  The toilet was out back of the house somewhere. In mid winter, it seemed entirely too far.

 

 

The day started for my dad and mother at about four AM. I could never understand why. But Mom would start a big breakfast, after Pop had built a fire in the cook stove. He would then go to the barn, feed the livestock, and milk the cows before breakfast. He was usually in the fields shortly after sunup, along with everyone else that was big enough to work. On the days that he went on his "routes," he worked several hours in the fields before he left, and left instructions as to what we were to accomplish while he was gone.  He would then return home, and go back into the fields, and work as long as he could see.  Nothing seemed too heavy for him to lift. How he avoided hernias is remarkable. His gait was always just under a jog, I never remember seeing him move slowly, or have any regard for fatigue. Still, this just kept enough money to get by on for the few things that had to be bought in stores.

 

This would  give a picture of complete poverty to those reading it today. however, such is not the case. I can not remember any time when we did not have plenty to eat, in a good variety.

There was no refrigeration, so ingenuity had to be used. Milk, butter, and other perishables that were to be on hand for a day or two were lowered into the well where the temperature was around forty  degrees.  Beef could be kept for several days without spoiling, chickens  and fish were cooked immediately. There was every vegetable known to the Ferry seed company. These were used  generously during the summer months, and canned, or dried for winter. Fruits were also plentiful. In addition to apples, peaches, and pears in the orchard; there were black berries, dew berries, plums, and crab apples growing wild.  These were picked, eaten fresh, and canned for winter. My mom could make pear preserves that were out of this world. There was also watermelon rind preserves, as well as the jams and jellies made from all other fruit available. We never had to go to a grocery store, it was all in the fruit cellar. Turnips, and potatoes were pyramided in the garden, covered with straw, then with about a foot of dirt. A hole was dug through  this cover, on the South side, so that all winter, we could pull the stuffing out of this hole, and get  potatoes, or turnips that were well preserved.  The cabbage, not made into sour kraut, was stored in a trench lined with oak boards, and straw. It can take a great deal of cold.

 

Beside all of the canned, and preserved fruits and vegetables, several bushels of apples, and peaches would  be evaporated each fall. The were washed, pared and sliced then placed on cheesecloth racks to dehydrate.  When this was done they were stored in cloth bags until they were needed.  Dried apple turnovers are a delight to the taste buds. Then there was meat.  It was a rule of thumb to fatten one pig for each member of the family. Butchering day was when the temperature was below freezing. Sometime, one hog would be butchered at the first early freeze if the meat supply was running low. Usually, though, it was all done on one day. When it was decided to butcher, all of the neighbors would come in early in the morning while it was frosty. The hogs would be shot once in the head with a 22 cal. rifle, one at a time. His neck artery was cut with a sharp butcher knife so that he could bleed completely. Immediately after that, it was  taken to a vat of boiling water and dowsed several times while more boiling water was being applied. The hair would be tested, and if it pulled off easily, it was time to pull the animal out on a table made of rough oak boards. Then everyone would gather around the hog, pulling the hair off, and the men would scrape the skin with their sharp butcher knives.

 

When the animal had been stripped of all its hair, it was very pink, and clean looking. At that point, a  length of oak pole, pointed on each end was placed between the pig's back legs to hold it apart, each end was sharpened, so that when a slit was made between the bone and the tendons, the pig could then be hoisted  to a rack that was made of two post set several feet apart with a pole attached between them. At that point he was split down the middle to spill his guts into a tub.  The women would take these, and strip the fat  from them. This was  put in the large iron kettle usually used to boil wash water, over an open fire. This kettle would hold about thirty gallons. The fat parts of the hams and  side meat was cubed and put in the kettle too. All of this was boiled, or fried until the lard cooked out of  the tissue. The  tissue was dipped out with a colander, and allowed to drip until all the fat was out. This was crackling, and was delicious eaten cold. It was terrific when added to corn bread. To get back to the butchering, the same process was repeated until all of the hogs were butchered.  When the lard was rendered, and all of the insides removed, the hearts, and livers were divided with the neighbors. Sometimes they would also take sausage, backbones, and tenderloin. In this way, since there was  rotation of butchering, everyone had fresh pork for several weeks.

 

Once the carcasses had gotten cold throughout, they were taken down, one by one, and cut up. This was usually done on a table made for the purpose, or one that had been outgrown  in the kitchen by the family size.  Cutting up the meat took hours. It was well into the night before this was finished. If it was really cold, the meat would  be left in the smokehouse until the next day. Then it would be packed in a huge wooden box between layers of salt. This would preserve the meat. It is also where the term, salt pork comes from.  It would take two to three hundred pounds of salt for seven hogs for our family. The salt process lasted two to three weeks. After that, the meat was removed from the big box, the salt was washed of, and it was hung from joists in the smokehouse. Sometime, the hams and shoulders were covered with cloth flour, or sugar sacks.  Then the process of curing took place. This was often just smoking with hickory and sassafras chips until the meat was a dark brown color. It took several days of having a smoking fire in an old wash tub,, or dish pan that was kept covered with damp chips to make it smoke, and not blaze up.  Today, this process is  done by mixing  liquid smoke, and brown sugar which is rubbed into the meat. It is no match for the real thing. It leaves the meat tasting sweeter, but the smoke taste is not genuine.

The hog's heads and feet , as well. as the sausage were still to be preserved. The heads first had the brains removed for use with eggs at breakfast. Then they were usually boiled, the ears, and other gristle parts were used in souce, now referred to as head cheese. The thoroughly boiled meat  was mixed with the ears, seasoned with red pepper, sage, and other herbs and molded. The juices jelled, and this was left in a cold place until it was eaten. It was always an  hors  d'    0uevre, though this word was not known, we called it snacks.  The tenderloins were cut away from the spine, so there were no pork chops, I could still settle for the tenderloin without the bone. The bones were then boiled in vegetables, and referred to as backbone. Spare ribs were also shared with neighbors so that they could all be consumed while they were fresh. The sausage was eaten fresh, pressed into small, cylindrical cloth bags, and smoked with the other meat, or fried, then canned in half-gallon jars that were filled around the cakes with the drippings. This was almost identical to fresh sausage any time of the year it was opened and heated. Parts of the heads, ears, and feet were kneaded and mixed with fruit cubes to make mince meat. This made terrific pies. None of the animal was wasted, except for the intestines, referred to as entrails . These were usually buried, or given to black families, if there were any in the neighborhood. They liked to clean them and make chitlings. I have never tried this delicacy, probably  from the feeling that these are not edible.

 

Beef  was an occasional treat. Several times during the year, someone would butcher a young steer. In winter more of the meat could be kept hanging in an outside building. But it was usually shared with neighbors. Occasionally, someone outside the neighborhood would butcher a steer, and sell it while the meat was fresh.  Of course , there were chickens, turkeys,, ducks, geese, and guinea hens that could be used for fresh meat. In fact, it was common practice to kill a chicken if company came unexpectedly.  We probably ate much better than the average family does today without buying anything except sugar, coffee, flour, condiments, soda and baking powder. Corn was taken to a nearby mill and ground into cornmeal. Sometime, but not always, we had wheat to grind for flour. That was a more complicated process, so we usually bought it in a 24 lb. cloth bag. These bags would then be bleached for dishtowels, and some very poor families made articles of clothing from them.

 

Laundry soap could be bought in bars, and I think Procter and Gamble made a laundry powder called  White King. But since, most laundry was done in a galvanized steel wash tub, using a washing board, bar soap was easier to apply to the fabric. It was wet and rubbed on the cloth while it lay on the ribs of the washboard.  The big iron kettle was used to boil the  white clothes after they were scrubbed on the washboard. The water was drawn from the well by hand, pumped by hand if there was a pump on the well, dipped from a spring, or clear stream. The whole operation was usually done under a tree in the backyard. Some people had a shed that they called a wash house. 

 

The store-bought soap was a luxury.  many of the women made their own. There were a couple of processes used. One was to boil  cook beef suet  for the fat, then mix the fat with lye, and boil it with water. After considerable boiling in the big wash kettle, it would congeal into a firm mass which was cut into squares. This was lye soap used for clothes, and dishes. But there was another process in which wood ashes were placed in a wood hopper that  was made in an inverted V-shape. Then water was poured over the ashes. The liquid that dripped out the bottom into a container was a deep amber color.  This formed the acid which was mixed with fat, and boiled. This made a liquid soap that was a deep amber color. Either of these soaps could remove layers of skin if it was exposed to them too long.

 

My dad sold a product on his peddling routes that was made by a company  named Saymon. We used Saymon toilet soap Saymon salve, Saymon liniment, and several other  home care products. The soap was not perfumed, it was pure white, and was supposed to be medicated. So we did have the luxury of using  toilet soap made for the purpose.

 

Knowledge of herbs was  common. Every housewife knew just which ones to pick for treatment of common ailments. There were many home remedies that were more lethal than we knew. For example, kerosene, and turpentine. It was not uncommon to take a teaspoon of sugar with several drops of kerosene, or turpentine on it for a severe cough from a cold, or flu. The standard was Vicks Vapo Rub which was just called Vicks Salve. This was rubbed generously on the chest, and  a lump of it was swallowed for a cough.  In the days before prohibition there was  hot toddy, but this  was finished when prohibition did away with the gallon jug of bourbon whisky. While many people who died, did so from some of the home treatments administered in good faith, most medical treatment was  a do it yourself thing on the farm. the only time anyone saw a doctor was for delivery of babies, pneumonia, or some other serious illness. It never occurred to anyone to call a doctor for common illness.  Probably just as well. The "horse and buggy" doctor knew little more than ordinary parents. Some of them had been schooled in medicine, but this wasn't long after doctors rode with other doctors to learn the trade.

                                                                                                                                                A doctor was usually called before death occurred, but not always.  They did have to be called , in any event, to sign a death certificate. But I have wondered many times, how many people are buried in those country cemeteries  who were helped to the Promised Land  by others. It never  dawned on me until I learned more about the ways of the world. But I am sure it would have been very easy to eliminates a troublesome spouse in a time when most death was attributed to natural causes.  Of course, there were obvious murders that were investigated, but when someone died before a doctor was called, he routinely signed a death certificate, based on his most logical guess as to the cause of death.

 

There was seldom an undertaker called to the home. Someone would go to the nearest town and buy a cheap coffin. If the dead was a woman, the neighbor women would "lay her out." That is to say, they would close the eyes, bathe the body, straighten it out, and dress it for burial.  Since,  there was no embalming, family and friends would "sit up" with the corpse until the following day when it was usually buried. This time could be extended somewhat in cold weather, by  keeping the coffin in the unheated parlor if there was one.

 

Every function of life and death was handled in a practical manner, consistent with the wealth of a family, or the lack of wealth. But there were few fancy funerals. It was considered a must to save up for a tombstone for the departed. But many never had that luxury.  It was better than the pioneers had it, but not too much better.

 

It is common to read about farmers wearing  homespun clothing in that period. Ours were not so much homespun, as home made, or made over. This worked well when the siblings of the same sex were born in succession. For my brother Allen, it worked fine. He could usually fit into my clothes as I outgrew them. That is if I got new ones.  It was more common for me to get the ones that Herbert had out grown. Since he was seven years older, they usually fit only in length. My mom would shorten the legs, or the sleeves, and not try to re-taylor them. This led to teasing by the kids at school, and some embarrassment to me. However, by no means, were all of our clothing  store boughten, denim, and chambray were bought several yards at a time, and fashioned into overalls, and shirts. Mom could sew a garment to fit pretty well, but the overalls did not look they were made by Levi Straus. The suspenders had big buttons and button holes instead of the classier fasteners seen on store boughten.  She did not have the knack of making the shoulder plackets that make the shirt fit over the shoulders, instead, they came straight up to the collar.  This wasn't too bad at country schools because most of our neighbor mothers were no better, nor worse tailors.  Few could afford to buy ready made, It was embarrassing when I was in junior high school.  The girl's dresses were better styled because the women were more accustomed to making their own.


 

Chapter 4 My Father:

 

My father was born Walter Lee Spees. He was the first born of Everett Finley Spees, and Udora Cathrine Watson.  My first lasting memories of him started when he was about thirty one years old. I was about three. I soon learned that he was a strict disciplinarian. He was always gentle with me unless I broke some of the family rules. Then he would use a switch to reinforce those rules. He never seemed angry when he had to discipline one of us. It was his custom to explain our wrong doing, and tell us how much it hurt him to use the switch on us.  I never considered this abuse, as it would be thought of today. It was just something that I deserved for my infraction. It didn't happen often. We learned  early what we could get away with, with only a scolding. And I think we always knew in advance when we had something more serious coming. This was before the advent of  Doctor Spock  when everything in the rural areas was basic.

 

To my siblings, and me he was always papa. To mama, he was Walter or old man. The cousins called him uncle Walter, and to the neighbors, he was  Mr. Spees.  He was small of stature. This I learned when I started getting tall like the Perry side of the family. But, to me, he was always a big man. I never expect to see a man that is more honest, nor more devoted to his family. So, I always looked up to him, even when I was a much taller man than he was.

 

Papa had dropped out of school when he finished the sixth grade. He had  to help support the family of ten. Being the oldest son, much of the farm work fell to him. Fortunately, he was endowed with inherent intelligence. his common sense, and sense of decency enabled him to deal with others in the community. Many of them were no more educated than he was, and some less. However, he was always self conscious about his lack of formal education. He wanted all of us to at least finish high school. He took great pride in the knowledge that we had a chance to better our station in life.

 

Whenever possible, we went to school. But there were times when we just had to miss school to save a crop, or to get one started in the spring.  He hated to keep us out, but the crops were our life's blood. Paying Taxes and interest required a cash crop.  This could be anything from tobacco, to sweet potatoes, or soy beans, anything that could be sold in the local market for cash. Most other expenses were covered by chicken and egg money.  There were always chickens for meat, and for the market. Young roosters were sold as fryers when they reached about six, or eight weeks. The pullets, or female chickens were kept as laying hens, and in a pinch, a quick meat dish if company came unexpectedly.

 

Papa was up and doing chores for an hour or so before we were called from our sleep.  We then had a breakfast of hot biscuits, ham, bacon, sausage, or perhaps beef; along with fried potatoes, or fresh cream style corn, and a choice of several preserves, jams, jellies, honey, or sorghum molasses. Sometime, there would be several eggs, either boiled, or scrambled, a meal as hearty as most evening meals of today  He would then go to the fields and work for several hours. By eight or nine o'clock in the morning, he would leave us children, and sometimes mama, working, and start his peddling route. This was done  four, and at times five days a week. He worked       

after he got home until after dark. Then he would have all day on Friday to work in the fields. On Saturday morning, about daylight, he would start the  ten-mile drive to Dresden. This took two, or three hours. The roads were dirt. So, in the summer time there was a cloud of dust following the wagon, and in winter, there were deep ruts that were quickly worn into the wet dirt. When it was freezing the wagon would bounce over these rough roads. He always had the wagon stacked high with chicken coops, and egg cases. Profits on the chickens and eggs also helped with the cash requirements.

 

Perhaps once a year, I would prevail upon him to take me along to town with him. This would be a big day in my life.  He would lift me  to the top of the big load with his big rough hands. The skin felt like sand paper  from all of the exposure to the elements, and the use of strong soap.  To me, they felt loving, and reassuring. he always gave me a nickle, or dime to spend. In those days, it seemed like a fortune. After the long trip, it would take most of the day to unload the chickens, and eggs, to buy chicken feed for the next week's batch of chickens, and to restock his groceries for sale the following week. Often we didn't get home until after dark.

 

I always thought it was nice for my dad to help with the house work on Sundays. I remember he could do about the best job of anyone making the beds. The mattress was a big unbleached muslin bag, made the size of a bed. This was stuffed with straw.  It had to be refilled once or twice a year. Not everyone had straw, but those who grew wheat, or oats welcomed all the other neighbors to come to their straw stack for filling the straw beds, as they were called. At first the tick had to be filled so full, that we would be sleeping very high. This was to have enough thickness when the straw was packed down. In the winter time, there was a feather tick atop the straw tick. This was made of goose, or duck down if it was available, or with a mixture or feathers and down. Some of them were made of chicken feathers. Tail, and wing feathers were never used.  Papa would open the straw ticks, and fluff the straw up some. He would then put the feather tick on top, and beat it around.  Then he would take the broom stick and run it over the surface to make it as smooth as possible. We always retired the feather beds for the summer months. Sinking down into the soft father bed kept you very warm in winter. The straw  ticks, as they were called, or mattresses, were used under the feather tick. The straw ticks were always filled with new straw in the fall, after harvest. If we had no straw, some neighbor would give us all we could use from their stack.  It was necessary to make them as fat as possible, in order that they maintain a reasonable thickness until the next filling.  As it was slept on, straw lost its resilience.  The straw ticks were made of several yards of  unbleached muslin, sewn into a big bag with an opening in the center of the top. They were emptied, and washed before each refill.

 

He was always good at sweeping the rough oak floors.  The broom was usually round. Everyone grew broom corn. This provided the coarse straw for the brooms. Papa would take each stalk of broom corn, and  trim about half of  the thickness of the stalk away.. these would then be soaked in hot water to make them soft, and pliable. He would then take an old broom stick, or a straight, dry hickory stick, fasten some fine wire to it with a small nail. The other end of the wire was  anchored to a work bench. Then he would start placing stalks of broom corn under the wire, and roll the wire around the stalk ends until he had as big a brush as he wanted. He would then put another nail in the broomstick, tie the wire around that nail, drive it all the way into the wood, then cut the wire off. Next the broom would be cut even on the end. When the broom corn dried,

this made a very good broom  There were all kinds of rough tools, and he would try anything with them. He did not profess to be a carpenter, nor a cabinet maker, but he could do a passable  job for what he had to work with. I have seen him work for hours to trim a piece of hickory down, then shape it into an axe or hammer handle. He had a  drawer knife which was a knife with a handle on either end. He placed one end of his wood between his feet, and would draw the knife toward him. This would shave a very thin sliver of the wood. When he had the shape he wanted, the rough edges of the cuts were often shaved off with a piece of broken lamp chimney.  Lamp chimney glass was very thin, and would shave the green hickory wood easily. Then he would sand it.

 

My dad also had a special talent that he wouldn't discuss. He was often called upon when some neighbor child would have Thrash. This was some sort of  congestive  illness that babies had. At any rate, people would bring their babies to him from some distance. The only thing I could perceive of his treatment was that he seemed to blow in their mouth. This was a sort of  faith healing, I think. I often  asked about it, but all he would tell me was that if he  explained it, he couldn't do it.  I can find no reference to this ailment in any of the medical books available to me.  I do know that it was a common ailment among young babies in the south. They were certainly to young to suffer from hypochondrias. It was also obvious to me that  his ministration helped.

Perhaps it is possible that the illness was in the imagination of the parents, and they were  relieved, knowing that he could stop this problem.  Anyhow, it worked.

 

The arrival of fast foods, and processed foods were far in the future from my dad's time. I do not know of any time when he prepared a meal for the family. When mom was ill, my older sisters took care of meal preparation, though, I am sure papa could have prepared something and cooked it if it was absolutely necessary, or if he had the time. He was self sufficient in everything else. When an animal would get sick, he knew just what potion to give it. I remember seeing him take a quart sized glass bottle many times, and pour it's contents into the mouth of a horse, or cow. The head was always held high in  a manner that gravity would deliver the liquid to the stomach. He always kept the head in that position until the animal had to swallow. I don't remember an animal dying after he treated it. If a cow ate too much green clover. alfalfa, or got into the green corn, they were prone to swell up with gas when this greenstuff started to ferment in one of their four, or so stomachs. He knew where to stick a sharp knife between the ribs to relive this pressure. Otherwise the animal would have continued to swell until it died. If a chicken got into the corn crib, and ate its fill of dry corn. Then took in water, the corn would swell in it's crop. It was possible for a hen to get so heavy in front that she couldn't stand.  When this happened there were two choices; have chicken and dumplings, or cut open the crop and manually take the swollen corn out. Then the skin was  sewn with an ordinary needle and thread. The wound was covered with iodine, and the hen released. It appeared that she was no worse for her experience.

 

The Watkins man came by about once a month. He had a strong smelling liniment that we bought for use on us, or the animals. If a horse went lame, and it seemed to be muscular, my dad would bathe it in Watkins liniment, and the horse would be fine in a day or two. If  the horse cut himself on barbed wire, he would first have it washed with turpentine, then have iodine poured into the would. A leg would be bound with a piece of an old sheet until the injury healed. There was no need for a Veternarian, even for delivery of calves, colts, or puppies. This was a thing that nature took care of with my dad's help, if needed. I do not remember a young animal ever dying from complications of birth. If need be, they were wrapped in a horse blanket, or burlap, and  laid near the fireplace. They were either taken to their mother for nourishment, or if they were too weak for that, they were feed by hand until they were strong. Even if there was a Veterinarian in the area, he probably would have been unable to reach the farm in time, if he could be contacted. The telephone system consisted of a box on the wall  with a magneto, and  two dry cell batteries. electricity was generated when the crank was turned, as well as a ring that was transmitted over the bare wire that was strung on poles to the switch board. The local switchboard was connected by the same type of crude wire to the next closest switchboard. It was possible to connect two telephones over several miles. I suppose a connection could be made to cover hundreds of miles. But, it was almost impossible to hear a person's voice over more than twenty miles, or so. When an emergency call was made from greater distances, information was relayed from one operator to the next. There was no privacy anyhow, everyone along the line could pick up their phone, an d listen in. Often they would offer advice. The practice was not usually frowned upon because everyone knew everything about their neighbors anyway. It was impossible to carry on a courtship by phone, of course.

 

So, pop did all of his own repairs, and all building with help of neighbors. There were no tradesmen in the general area, except doctors, undertakers (sellers of coffins), grocers, and blacksmiths. Dentist's traveled through, and so did dealer's in clothing, jewelry, etc. These were almost always Jewish people who carried a large case on their shoulder. This case was made of fiber, and held many different items for sale.  These vendors would just appear walking down the road. I never did see any other means of transportation for them than  walking.  This was quite a feat because the towns were usually at least ten miles away. Their accent was always foreign. Of course, I didn't know at the time that they were from another country. I just thought they talked funny. Anyway, if he couldn't make the part he needed, he would have the blacksmith make it for him, if it could be made of iron. Wagon wheels had to be removed, and soaked in the creek, or in the pond, so that the wood would always be swollen tight against the iron band that encircled them. This band  of iron was called the tire. This was true for the wheels of buggies, and surreys too, and even wheels of the early cars. Wood spokes would dry and shrink so that the fit wasn't tight.. A new spoke could be fashioned from a piece of hickory. This is a very strong wood, and it is relatively easy to work with when it is unseasoned.

 

My father outlived my mother by twelve years. He refused to live with any of us.  Mom died in Michigan, and he wanted to remain close by, in order to be buried beside her. We lived in Colorado which, to him was too far to stay for any extended period. My promises to see to it that he was returned to Jackson, Michigan to be buried at mom's side, should anything happen to him here, were to no avail. He visited once, but only for a  week, or two. My older sister lived in Midland, Michigan, where he lived. Both she and her husband welcomed him to move in with them after mom died.  He said that he did not want to be a burden to anyone. So he bought a small house across the street from them. That was home to him for about ten years until he had to go to a nursing home.  It was probably a bigger worry for my sister to have him across the street than it would have been, had he been in her house. She constantly ran across to check on him. He had spent most of his life with few modern conveniences, and it was not unusual for him to   let a pilot light go out, and fail to relight it.

 

He drove horses and mules for so many years, that when he finally got an old truck, he had difficulty remembering that it didn't respond to verbal commands. I took one ride with him during which he first said Whoa! when he wanted to stop. He was also negligent about backing out of his driveway into traffic.  Country life was so instilled that he still expected the roadway to be clear of traffic. He had several close calls before he was convinced to quit driving a car.

 

In his last days his memory was very poor. The last time I visited him, he was proud that he recognized me. He said, "I would know you anywhere." He was also proud to the end, that none of his children had ever committed a crime, or spent time in jail. The crime rate in Michigan was so much higher than anything he ever experienced in Tennessee, that he was even more pleased that we had  all been upright citizens. Pop died  in a nursing home, in Midland, Michigan, on July 4, 1972.  He now rests in a cemetery in Jackson, Michigan, beside his beloved Liza.

 

He was never able to amass wealth, nor even enough material things to live in comfort and ease. Yet, he was  a moral giant, not a fanatic, just a down to earth nice, self effacing person. He was respected by all who knew him. He was loved by his children in a quiet undemonstrative way. His grand children adored him, and his great grandchildren were in awe of him. He was happy to meet his maker with hope of a better life after this one. His Primitive Baptist religion taught him to be meek, and not to expect too much from this life, but to be prepared for the one after where there was no pain, or suffering where all would be peace and joy.


 

Chapter  5 My Mother:

 

My mother was the eighth child of Kencheon Perry and Sarah Jane Adams.  She had four older brothers, three older sisters, and two younger sisters. The next younger sister, Rebecca, died in her early twenties. There was at least one brother who died  in his childhood.  She was  born Mary Eliza Perry.  I realized, when I was grown up, that she was the beauty of the six girls.

 

She was married  to my father when she was sixteen, and he was nineteen. She too was a strict disciplinarian, at least by the time I started to remember her. Yet, she was the mediator. She would report our infractions to my dad, but when he started to give us our just dues, she was likely to ask him to ease up. Waiting until papa was present to mete out the punishment was almost worse than the punishment itself. It gave us more time to anticipate what would happen when papa did get there. When it was done, it was a very good feeling to be back in their good graces. They were both loving to us after we were punished.  I think they wanted us to realize that the rod was necessary, but they still loved us just as much after we paid.

 

To us, she was mama, but she was  Liza, or Lizy to papa, miz Liza to friends, and neighbors. To her brothers and sisters, she was Liza.  Mom was a bit taller than Pop. She came from a family of tall people. Grandpa Kencheon, and his four sons were all close to six feet tall. Grandma was a very petite  little lady.  They were gentle people. I can recall their smiles, but they were more serious than the Spees family, most of whom joked, and laughed a lot.

 

Mama was the manager. While my dad would give the shirt off his back to anyone, mom was  more frugal. She always looked forward to the day when we would have a big, fertile farm that was  free of debt. This never happened, of course. There was never a time when we did not have enough to eat, and a house that was good enough to satisfy our needs. Beyond that we did not have an abundance of material things.  Mama went to the fields with the rest of us when she had the time. But she devoted  much of her time to cooking, cleaning, preserving, canning, sewing, and things that she had to do to keep us fed, and clothed. In addition, she was pregnant a good part of the time. Except  for the five years between my two oldest sisters, the rest of us were  from a year and a half to two years apart. The months of pregnancy prior to the birth did not slow her down very much. After the birth, most women of the time, spent a month, or two in recovery. This did not mean that she didn't work, she just confined her work to the home. She always nursed the  baby until it was weaned, and started eating at the table with the rest of us. Seven births consumed  several years of her time.

 

There were always hundreds of cans of food for winter. Potatoes, turnips, and cabbage were buried  in hills, or trenches in the garden, as described earlier in this piece.  Meat was cured, or cooked and canned. This included a good variety of  food. When someone butchered a beef, or veal , it was shared with the neighborhood.  Apples were kept in a cool storage place in barrels, so that we had fresh apples for a part of the winter.  With all of these things which included mustard ,  turnip, and Polk greens. There was an adequate diet with the corn bread and biscuits that we always had. When mom baked loaves of bread, it was called  light bread.  The aroma from baking light bread ran a close second to the aroma of frying ham, or bacon, and  that of boiling coffee. It was truly manna from Heaven.  As soon as the winter freezes were over, mom would take the younger children who were too small to work in the early field work, and we would hunt for wild greens. There were a number of kinds that she taught us to recognize in the fields. There was dandelions, lambs quarter, wild lettuce, wild mustard, and many others that made delicious eating for our first fresh greens of the season.

 

There were many other things that we were taught to do . When she sewed on her treadle  NEW HOME, machine (the only one she ever owned) it was helpful to have a little one push up and down on the bar between the treadle, and the fly wheel. This kept her legs from tiring as fast. We were also given the job of pouring water from the rain barrel into the ash hopper to make the laundry soap. Then when this, or lye was mixed with beef fat to cook the soap, one of us would help to stir the mixture in the big black iron, wash kettle in the back yard. This kettle was as large, or larger than a wash tub (about thirty gallons). It had four iron feet about four inches high. These were set on brick, or rocks to elevate it enough for a wood fire under, and around it. While we stirred with a large wood paddle, similar to a boat oar, we wiped the tears out of our eyes from the wood smoke. She knew when the mixture had cooked enough. it would be removed from the fire, covered until it became solid, in case of the lye soap, and until it cooled for that made from wood ash. This remained a thick liquid. It was kept in a large crock, and a small crock was used around the wash tubs. At that point, I hadn't seen the first hand cranked washing machine.

 

It didn't occur to me in those days that mom was actually teaching me to be self sufficient at the same time I was assisting her. She also taught us how to cook. She said one never knew when he would be left to his own resources, and would need to cook something, or go hungry. Her style of cooking  is not used now.  It would be considered hazardous to the health. Vegetables were  cleaned, and put in an iron pot that hung from an iron bar in the fireplace. This bar was pivoted so that it could swing out over the hearth to hang the pot on. The pot was filled with water around the vegetables, and a large cube, about four by four inches, of fat pork was cooked with it.  The pork was  usually uncured , thick side pork, or hog's jowl.  With an iron lid on the pot, it cooked for hours, until the vegetables were tender, and the pork well done. This applied to greens, green beans, turnips, potatoes, or almost any other vegetable.

 

She always had a kitchen stove as well. My dad would cut and split oak wood for  stove wood.  He would usually build a fire in the stove  just after he got up in the morning, before he went to the barn to do the chores. It was up to us kids to bring in wood, and keep the fire going all day. In winter, this provided its share of the heat for the house.  The caps on the top of the kitchen stove were arranged with two immediately over the fire box, and two to four further away from the fire box. The front caps were used for fast cooking, and the others for simmering, or long term cooking that didn't need fast heat. There was a lifter to remove these caps if you wanted to get the iron pot directly over the blaze. Often the vegetables were cooked on the stove instead of the fire place. There was an oven where the bread, and other pastries were baked. The fire traveled around the oven on its way to the flue, or chimney.  One of the ways to cook cracklin bread, or to bake sweet potatoes was in an iron oven with legs on it. This oven sat on the hearth with live coals from the fireplace under it. The lid had a rim around it to hold live coals on top.  When mom made cracklin bread (corn bread with cracklins mixed in it) she made it  about three or four inches thick. This was a delight to eat. However, it was heavy with cholesterol. But it was delightful with a glass  of milk. I usually crumbled it in the milk. There was fresh butter to spread on it, but was not needed because of the fat from the cracklins in the bread.

 

These meals so rich in milk, cream, country butter, and fat from meat were well tolerated by everyone. It was apparently the vigorous physical activity that all of us had on the farm that kept our arteries free of plaque.  Everyone that I knew, ate this way, usually for their lifetime without any adverse effect. I suspect that the difference was the hard work. True, life expectancy was much shorter, but many lived to their nineties on these diets, and with home remedies instead of treatment by a physician. Of course, many died who could have been saved with professional medical help.

 

Even with the seven children, there was always room for guests.  If there were too many for one setting at the ample table, the older children were asked to wait.  This meant that we waited in another room until the grown up guests had eaten. If the guests had larger children, they waited with us.  This was really a difficult chore to smell the aromas from the kitchen, and have to wait for what seemed an eternity to get a turn at it. There was always enough food for everyone, but you were always a little anxious about it until you were at the table.

 

Guests were always invited to spend the night. They usually didn't accept the invitation unless they had come from a distance expecting to stay the night, or a few days. They were always welcome, as we were to stay with them. Because of horse drawn transportation, it was common for friends, or relatives coming from several miles to stay overnight. When they left Mom would say, "You'all just stay all night." If they didn't the guests would say, "You'all come."  When company did stay, the kids were all put to bed on pallets. These were made on the floor with an extra feather tick, or a couple of thick comforters under you. If the children were small, several would be slept on one pallet. There weren't that many rooms, so there were several pallets in a room. This usually led to a pretty sleepless night.

 

Mom’s relatives were always in the same area that we lived in. There were dozens of uncles aunts, and cousins. Besides the Spees, there were the Perrys, the Kimbals, the Brans, the Ruddles, and the Lewises. All of moms brothers and sisters had large families, except for aunt Lena, her youngest. She was a Registered Nurse, and only had two sons, Thomas, and James.  But all of the others had from seven to ten children. Often, several of these families would gather at one home. The children were all ages from adults to infants.  They were like brothers, and sisters, or aunts, and uncles.  Uncle Lee, and Uncle Marshal, called Uncle Marsh, were the two oldest of mom's brothers. Their children were as old as my folks, and had their own families to add to the group.  

 

It didn't matter whether the aunt, or uncle was an in-law, we didn't distinguish between them. We knew who the actual aunt, or uncle was, but did not differentiate. I remember my aunt Lena not being happy as a farmer's wife. She took Nurses training, and for a time worked in nearby hospitals. Her husband, uncle Will Lewis was not overly ambitious. He was very likeable, and got along well with all of the relatives. But, Aunt Lena decided that she could no longer tolerate his poor work habits, and his being satisfied for her to earn their keep. Finally, she told him that she wanted a divorce. I was pretty young, and the same age as Thomas, James was a bit younger. They were my closest buddies. So it was a shock to me to learn that Uncle Will had to leave. I visited them once while this was happening. He was begging her to let him stay. At the time I thought she was cruel to insist that he go. She didn't have anyone else in the wings, and remained single for several years. She just couldn't tolerate lack of ambition. Also, that was the first time I had heard the word divorce. None of my other aunts and uncles were ever divorced.

 

Aunt Lena always worked in a hospital, or for a doctor. She had more ready cash than anyone  of our relatives. In a real pinch she would loan money to one of her brothers, or sisters, but this was a rare event, and required real need.

 

I think the proximity of these relatives, compared to the Spees families, made the Spees more special to me. I loved all of them, but these families were always close by, and we seldom saw the Spees.  This made it more of an event when we were able to go to their homes, or they came to our home.

 

There was something special about my mother and father. At least to me, they always seemed to be the  nicest looking people in our large family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  It could have been a natural bias on my part. But, I always thought they were a little more intelligent, as well. I also noticed that almost everyone, friend, or relative that we saw, showed more respect to them than anyone else around. There seemed to be a special spark in the personality of our immediate family. Maybe it was a look of intelligence in their eyes.  I still do not know why this was noticeable to me as a small child. Perhaps, all  small children feel this way because of a special bonding to their parents, and siblings. In any case, I thought I could recognize this special thing, whatever it was, to varying degrees, in everyone around me.

 

My mom always stood out in her circle of friends, and relatives. Perhaps it was her natural beauty, but I always thought it was more.  This beauty was not helped along with cosmetics. So far as I know, she never used lip stick, or rouge. Her peaches, and cream complection was natural. In those days, the women, and girls protected their delicate complection from the sun with sunbonnets, or large straw hats. To tan, or sunburn was not at all appreciated. There were women in her circle who did not take this precaution.  My uncle's wife had skin that was wrinkled like a prune. She was much older than mom, and I wondered what caused that condition. Now, I suspect that it was exposure to the sun.

 

the period in her life that most impressed itself on my memory was actually her youthful years, her late twenties, and thirties. To me all of the women friends, and relatives were enormous women. I now know that it seemed that way to me because I was such a small boy.  They were  pretty uninhibited as a group. I can remember watching  several of these young women cavorting in  the water when groups would go to the river for an outing, while the men were away from the site catching fish. Again, I was too young to be concerned with their bodies. They did not have bathing suits, so they would strip to one petticoat to play in the water, I don't think any nof them could swim.  Most of them were buxom, possibly from nursing several children. Considering the puritan conduct of the period, they were  pretty liberated. I did notice, though, that they dressed before the men came back with the fish.

 

At sixty or so, the years of hard work, and child bearing had taken its toll on her. She still did all of her house work with the help of my dad. By that time too, all of the children were on their own.  She had  high blood pressure, and  I am sure now from her symptoms, that she had congestive heart failure. Still her medical treatment consisted largely of home remedies. Medical science was there, and available to her, but I suspect that she trusted her herbs, and liniment more than she trusted doctors.

 

Mom was always delighted when we could all get together for a reunion. She always wanted a picture taken of the event. She was always afraid that each of these would be the last. She  just managed to get along with her  sons-in law, and her daughters-in-law. I am sure that she thought none quite came up to her standards for her children. She maintained enough rapport to keep them coming.  I found in private conversation with her that she grudgingly liked them. But she was outspoken, and had the attitude that she was their elder, and they should  accept everything she said.  This never caused any complete rifts, but it did make some reluctant to visit.

 

Mom liked to go fishing. It wasn't the fish that she caught, I think it was more the idea. She usually caught some fish, even if they were too small to keep. It was a few minutes after returning from a fishing trip with my dad that she died suddenly. She was  seventy four.  She had an anurysm in the back of her brain this ruptured, and she only lived a few minutes afterward. The technical location of the anurysm was the Circle of Willis. In fact, this was a standard age for all of her family to die with one exception. Uncle Marsh always told me that he was going to be the oldest Perry that ever lived. He died at eighty nine. I was telling  his son, Terrance about  this at my sister, Dinese's funeral. I had mentioned to him that I thought the Perry family had a mind set that seventy four was the time to die. Terrence told me that he had outlived his dad, that he was ninety two at the time. To me there didn't seem to be any  other compelling reason for all of the others to die at almost precisely seventy four, that their assumption that death would take them at that age. So far, my two older sisters died at that age.


 

Chapter  6 Transportation  

 

In my youth the modes of transportation, and motive power were limited.  Except for walking to a destination, horses, and mules were used for all transport.  In the earlier days of my memory we had several different horses, and mules. Because we were poor, they were usually defective in one way, or another. It was the dream of most farmers to have a matched pair of young mules, or draft horses. Ours were mixed to say the least.  A horse, or mule that was blind in one, or both eyes was much more reasonable to buy.  They were just as productive, but the driver had to be on the alert constantly to guide them down the furrows, rows, or to keep them in the roadway.

A match was of no import, except for snob value. Those who had matched pairs, usually spent a great deal more for harness too. It would be  covered with bright studs, much like  motorcycle clothing of today. To have new looking, very black leather under the studs was of some snob value. People didn't take a second look at our teams. In fact, I suspect that they looked away when the poor creatures passed, much the same as  one does when he passes a tramp, or a deformed individual.  As much in sympathy, as disdain.

 

When a measure of prosperity came along, one of the first things  papa did was to improve his teams. The mules were  not matched, but they were about the same size, and almost the same color. The harness was not rich black, nor studded, but it was adequate  for its purpose. These mules were about four, or five years old. So they were broken, which means that they had been tamed to wear harness. He also acquired two horses at about the same time. No effort was made to match them, they were used in the fields, often single  with cultivating plows, or as a team. They also served  to pull the buggy, or the surrey when we  went to church on Sunday.

 

A mule is a cross between a mare, and a jackass. The same hybrid would be possible by crossing a stallion with a jennet. The only problem is in the breeding. The stallion is usually too proud to mate with a jennet, whereas the jackass is pleased to mate with a mare. Somehow, or other the horse has more pride than the jackass.  The mule is often high strung. It is strictly a hybrid that is not capable of reproducing itself.  It can pull heavy loads, it is sure footed over rough terrain, and is generally a very dependable draft animal. Before the tractor this animal  was much in demand on the farm, in construction, in the army, and many other places.  Missouri was  one of the biggest  breeding area, and market for this animal. This is no doubt where the comment, "stubborn as a Missouri  mule had its origin."  I am sure that  the personality traits were established during the  "breaking" period.

 

Each mule has it's own personality. For the most part, they are docile, but cannot be trusted. It is entirely impossible to know when a mule might lash out at you. It is best to be cautious in your dealings with him. I always tried to give them a wide berth when I passed behind them, many careless farmers were kicked in the head, face, or other vital areas.  This resulted in death in some cases, and serious injury in others. So, during my stay on the farm, I was cautious around the mules, particularly, Ole Kate. Horses and mules  all had names, and the name was always prefaced  with ole. It was, I am sure,  supposed to be old. I never knew why they added this.

Anyway, we addressed them without the  ole, it was just when they were referred to in conversation the ole was added.  Example, hitch up Ole Kate and Roadie, and go plow.

 

Kate was brown, and a lighter shade  than Roadie.  She was hard to handle in so far as contact with a human being was concerned.  Mules have very long ears, in contrast to the rather short ears of a horse. Apparently,  Kate had been teased around the ears when she was a colt.  She  would throw her head around violently when she was being bridled.  Until I was a teen ager, I never attempted to bridle her.  After she was bridled, I could put the harness on her, if I was gentle about it. She could get excited, and start bucking if the harness was thrown on her back suddenly, or from any other  sudden move . She was totally unpredictable. For a long time, when I was alone with the mules in the field, I tried to pet her, thinking  that she was just afraid of contact, and sudden moves, however, this was a fruitless effort. So far as I know, she was never friendly with anyone. She was willing to turn in a good days work, but that was as far as she would go.  Several times, I tried to saddle her. I couldn't see why she couldn't be ridden like the horses, but she would never stand long enough to have the girth straps fastened under her belly. She usually bucked the saddle off as soon as it was placed on her back.

 

Rhoda, (this was her name, I'm sure, Roadie was just what she was called) was docile, and seemed just to tolerate the unorthodox behavior of Kate.  She was spirited, and could do anything Kate could do without the fuss. When it was time to leave the field for the day, the plow would be left in the furrow for the next day's work. I would unhitch the mules, and ride ole Roadie to the house, leading Kate.  When they were unharnessed in the barn yard, they would go to the pond, or the watering trough, and drink their fill of water. Then they would usually lie down in the dusty barn yard, and roll. Apparently, this was to dry the  sweat from their backs. Maybe the dry dust was soothing to their hide.  They were always combed with a  curry comb, and brushed before they were harnessed. The curry comb had  strips of sheet metal curbed  around it. It was about the size of a hand. The comb part was toothed like a hack saw. There was a strap that fit over the back of the hand.  The same with the brush. The curry comb was attached to one hand, and the brush to the other. When the  mud, burrs, or anything else that was stuck in the animal's coat was loosened with the curry comb, the brush smoothed the coat down.

 

Ole Joe was a fairly large bay gelding. He was lazy, and at times hard to handle.  I noticed that he always responded to papa, but he seemed to know when he  came up against a young one like me. He would balk at times, that is he would just stand, or back up when I would try to get him to go forward. This was only true when I would try to ride him. I didn't try this except when someone else was using Ole Bird, the mare. He had a trot that was agonizing if you were sitting on his back. That is, if you could get him up to the speed of a trot.  It was slightly more comfortable to ride him in a lope, but getting him to that speed was almost impossible.

 

Ole Bird was a sorrel mare with a blazed face. That is, she had a white strip down her face from the ears to her nose. She was much smaller than Joe, and much more graceful. I think she  had some of the blood line of the Tennessee walker.  She had a gentle pace that  made riding her almost as comfortable as sitting in a rocking chair. She did her share of pulling  the farm equipment, but she was almost always used to pull the buggy, or to ride.  By the time we  were close enough to a town that had movies, I was riding her to school.  When Papa was not around, I often tried to emulate the cowboys, such as Tom, Mix, or Ken Maynard that I saw in the movies.  I tried  jumping into the saddle from the back. For this I had to have Bird backed up to a fence, or something that would put me up off the ground. She was too tall for me to try this from the ground. I also tried my hand at lassoing calves, or cows from horseback,  never with much success.  Anyhow, it was nice to picture yourself on the back of a big Bay Stallion, like  Tom Mix, or the big white stallion of Ken Maynard. To go across the fields like the wind, and to out run any outlaw. Of course, the outlaws were just a figment of my imagination. I had never seen one, except in the movies. 

 

I do not remember what happened to these  animals.  They were still on our farm when I left it. I am sure that Papa sold them at some point.  They served us well, and provided as much transportation, and motive power for the farm equipment as any two pairs of matched animals. They just didn't provide snob appeal.  Actually, this had no intrinsic value. It was similar in nature to owning  a small Ford, compared to  a Cadillac. Each had its utility, and both were adequate.

 

During my years at home, we never owned a car.  About 1925, or 1926, my two older sisters, Denise, and Doy, bought a 1923 Ford  touring car. That is, it had two seats, and an imitation leather top. It was the fore runner of the convertible, except that it did not have glass for windows. If the weather was bad, there were side curtains rolled up under the front seat. These were made of  the same imitation leather with strips of ising glass, ( a transparent material similar to plastic) sewn in cut-outs in the curtains. This afforded some view from the side of the vehicle. They  were equipped with  metal rimmed slots. The side of the vehicle, and the top had flat  metal buttons with a top that turned. So that, when the flat button head was passed through the curtain slot, it could be turned to hold it in place. When they bought this wonderful machine, both  my sisters visualized driving it. This was not to be. In those times, in our part of Tennessee, there were no paved roads. The best were gravelled, but most often, they were just a dirt surface that was graded from the side ditches to the middle of the road. The corners were square because there was no need for high speed. Even if a young dude was driving his  horse at break neck speed with a buggy; he would slow enough to negotiate the square turns in the road.. It was different with the Ford. Both Denise, and Doy tried to learn to drive. This was a part of the deal with the salesman. I was sent along as protection for my sisters, and it was a good thing. This all occurred on a Sunday afternoon. After an hour, or so, the salesman was sure that neither of them could quite get the hang of driving, so he suggested teaching me.

 

This changed my life.  Apparently, I had a  natural ability to master the workings of things mechanical. I was able to drive within minutes of trying. There were several things to remember. The model T Ford did not have a gear shift.  The transmission was controlled with foot pedals. To put it in low gear, the pedal was pushed to the floor. After some  forward momentum was gained, there was a different  position of the pedal to shift to second gear. This was also used for moderate  hills that did not require low gear. High gear was all the way out, or just remove your foot from the pedal. The aptitude  for just the right amount of pressure on these pedals made the difference between a smooth driver, and  one who made the car jump along. This main gear pedal that shifted from one disk to another in the transmission, was on the left. There was a  pedal that was used entirely to put the car in reverse. It was the center pedal. A third pedal, on the right was the brake, pedal.  The left pedal was referred to as the clutch. It had a third position that was neutral. So, when you wanted to stop the clutch was depressed to neutral, and the brake pedal to the floor.  Within two hours, I was not only driving this Ford like a pro, but, I took my sisters to a singing at a local. church. I was able to maneuver between other parked vehicles without any problem. In fact, it wasn't long before I could feel the position of all parts of the vehicle. I  could anticipate the speed  at which I could  safely turn a corner in the road. This was a great feeling.  I had much more speed than I was accustomed to in any horse drawn vehicle, and the Ford had more stamina. This must have been about as thrilling as the first solo in an airplane.

 

Try as I may, and I never tried too hard to teach Denise, and Doy to drive, they couldn't learn. At least, they never did drive the model T Ford.  Denise never drove a car in her life. Doy finally owned her own car, and drove it without a problem. However, this was many years later when the roads had been paved, and the car had automatic transmission. For my part,, it was nice that they were dependent on me to drive. This meant that I was able to go anywhere they did. Also, they had an automatic chaperon.  Our parents were very protective of their chastity, but they were satisfied for them to go more places with me as their driver.

 

There was always a trail of dust that fogged  up behind the vehicle, and reached heights of fifty to seventy five feet, or so. It wasn't too bad when yours was the only vehicle on the road. When there were many, it was best to trail by several hundred feet. Even then the dust settled on your clothing, or in your hair unless you were dressed properly for it.  Those of younger generations probably wonder why people wore long coats, caps, or bonnets, and goggles when they were pictured in the cars of that era. It was the dust which never appeared in the photographs. The long coats were aptly called Dusters.

 

These dust trails also told of the approach of someone on the road. It could be seen long before the vehicle came into view. It was always of interest to see a dust trail approaching because  there were so few vehicles on the road, particularly during the week, that it was of interest.  Usually, this commotion was caused by someone that you knew, on his way to the store, or the mill. But they usually stopped and talked to you if you knew who they were. Even if you didn't know them there was always an exchange of greetings in the form of a wave of the hand, or a howdy. After all,  it was of some note to see a friend, or even a stranger  passing by.  It in some measure satisfied the need for contact of other human beings.  The neighbors were usually a half mile, or so away, and they were going about their business in their own fields.  When there was no telephone between neighbors, some communication was possible by  "hollering."  One would stand facing the other farm, and let out a sort of yodel. This would be returned if the  neighbor heard it. I never did know just how they communicated by this method. If there was an emergency the dinner bell was rung. The dinner bell was a cast iron bell about twelve inches in diameter. It was shaped like the Liberty Bell. There was a metal ball  on a pivot that hung from the top center of the bell. The bell itself was hung from a bar with a rope  attached to an arm on the side of the bell, when the rope was pulled the clapper hit the sides, and rendered a sound that could be heard from some distance.

 

There was always a response to the ringing of a dinner bell. If it were at noon time the housewife rang the bell when lunch was almost ready to serve. In which case, those in the fields would respond. If the bell was ringing at any other time of day, or night, it meant something was wrong. This would not only bring anyone to the house from the farm, but it would bring any neighbor that heard the ringing.

 

The most impressive of all was the steam locomotive.  On the rare occasions when I was able to visit  Dresden, the nearest  town, and the County Seat of Weakley County, I could see, and hear this marvelous monster.  I am not sure whether it was the power of the engine that impressed me, or the fact that  this would take one on endless journeys into the unknown. Even the smell  of the coal smoke thrilled me. Never mind the soot that fell on your clothing, this was truly something  new to my world.  The billows of steam that would  vent to the sides of the engine when the train was starting forward. The extreme power that caused these big iron wheels to spin on the track as the engine tried to establish traction to move its ponderous load. Seeing a hundred or more cars being pulled by this monster was hard to imagine.

 

The passenger trains were much shorter, and  could move much faster. It was hard for me to comprehend speeds up to sixty miles an hour, and even faster. These wonderful things started me wondering if I would ever be able to ride on a train. Would it be safe, or would it run off the track while rounding some curve?  The sound of the train whistle intrigued me. Every aspect to this form of transportation was exciting. In the dead of winter, when the air was very cold, there were times at night when it was possible to hear the far off sound of a train whistle.

 

It finally did come to pass that my two older sisters, and my older brother were going to ride a train from Dresden, Tennessee to Boaz, Kentucky, the closest railroad station to  Grand pa Spees' home. I do not remember how old I was at the time, but I prevailed upon my parents to allow me to go along. This was truly heaven. The   Conductor put a little iron step on the ground by the steps leading up to the passenger car.  As we walked out toward the train, he yelled "Board."

I had no idea what it would be like in the cars. But the big seats looked comfortable, and I was surprised when he reversed the back on one of our seats, so that we could sit facing each other.When the train started forward the ride was very smooth.  I noticed some of the men who were passengers, wearing their fedora hats with their ticket stuck behind the hat band. Soon the Conductor came through yelling "Tickets.''  I noticed that when the tickets were handed to him, he punched holes in them, and attached the ticket to a clip over the seat. As usual, for such an occasion, I was dressed in my  only suit from Sears Roebuck. It had a regular jacket, but the pants were knickers. I always hated these knickers with the button to fasten just below the knee, and the long black ribbed stockings that I had to.wear with them. It would be several years before I could wear long pants. Of course, I wore a cap with the top snapped to the bill. This was of material similar to the suit. It also had ear muffs that could be unfolded from the inside of the cap.  These days a similar cap would be referred to as a "pisscutter." Of course there was also the heavy outside coat, called a Mackinaw at the time.

 

As we rode through the countryside, I had the feeling that the landscape was passing us outside the window, and we were standing still. I marvelled at not having any sense of speed. The fields, and forests, as well as the houses and barns that we passed, took on a completely new look. It was like a moving picture with ever changing scenes. Could anyone ever hope for a bigger thrill? To me this was the ultimate. To see people walking up and down the isles was different too. It was my first experience with any transportation that didn't require you to sit in your seat.

Then the restroom, I had never seen one before, except the two holers that we had on the farm. So this was another new experience. I was truly amazed when I flushed it, and could see the ground and rails beneath the train speeding by. A man came through selling sandwiches, but we had our own lunch that mama had packed in a basket before we left.

 

The total distance of this trip was about sixty miles, or less, but it took quite a while. We stopped at every little station along the way, and there were some where the station sat alone by the tracks. Where there was no town. At each stop the train would leave one or more passengers, and pick up others. Lots of these passengers showed absolutely no excitement about the ride. They treated it like it was just an ordinary part of life.

 

When we finally did arrive at Boaz, Grandpa was there with the wagon. It was very cold, so he had lap robes to cover our legs, and there were lanterns that were lighted, and set on the floor under the robes to keep us warm.  There is a very steep hill leaving Boaz. It is paved now, some seventy years later, and perhaps not as steep as the gravelled road was, but changed little. I remember that ride was very rough, the ground was frozen solid, and the surface had been roughed up by traffic when it was wet. In a frozen state, the wagon bounced over these bumps. I could not help contrasting it to the smooth ride on the train, and realizing that the train was  by now,  nearing Paducah. A visit to my grandparent's house had always been my most exciting experience. Now, it had the ride on the train to compete with.

 

The bus had not yet been invented, and the airplane was not considered a mode of transportation. It had possibilities, but it could only carry one, or two people. Also, the people who rode in airplanes were always doing stunts to entertain other people. At least, this was my total knowledge of air travel at the time. To me, the train was completely adequate, if they just went more places. Why, I wondered, couldn't they bring one by our farm?  This was before my relatives owned Model T Fords, so it took us longer to travel to Dresden, in the wagon, than the train took for the rest of the trip. I could have ridden on, and on into the unknown to see ever new and changing scenery, and places that I could only imagine.


 

Chapter 7   The Land:

 

It was during my teen age that County Agents started coming around to advise farmers on scientific farming methods. Through ignorance of these methods, we were raping the land. Erosion was rampant. Gullies were everywhere, and nothing was being done to keep the topsoil. Our small world was comprised almost entirely of subsistence farmers.  There were cash crops, but only enough to provide money to pay the mortgage, and  property tax. These practices were depleting the  soil at a rapid pace. Had  Europe used similar practices, their land would have been depleted hundreds of years ago.  We were a large country with relatively few people, so land was plentiful, and it was being wasted. This was not an intentional result. Most farmers knew little about conservation, but they could move on when their land was depleted. Probably the reason for this was the few farmers coming from Europe. I suspect the early farmers in America were most likely day laborers in Europe. Since there was little industry here, they had to farm to subsist.

 

There were almost certainly better methods in other areas of the country where farming was   for  a cash return.  In our area of Tennessee, contour farming was unheard of. Apparently, none gave a thought to the possibility.  When the  County Agent mentioned that plowing around the hills instead of up and down the grade would help hold the soil, it seemed logical.  He also showed us that placing dikes ahead of the erosion in  gullies would stop it there.  Perhaps the word gully is unknown in most places. It is common to hilly areas, or was, particularly in the South. It could occur on any hill side, but it was common along dirt roadways, particularly those going around a hill. At first, a small stream would start in a low place to drain water down the hill. Then each rain would eat away more soil from the sides. It would also get deeper with each succeeding rain. In the early stages, a dike would have stopped it. However, for reasons unknown, nothing was done to stop the process. Soon the top soil  was washed away completely. This was followed by the soft red sandstone. The process continued until the erosion reached the level of the ground below the hill. It would then broaden back toward the hill as it claimed ever increasing widths. Often they resembled miniature Grand Canyons, or the South Dakota Badlands.

 

To a lesser degree, all hillside plots were scarred by erosion, at first as rivulets, then by deep ditches. If the land was in the flood plain of  a stream, even a small creek, the top soil was deposited there. This formed a small delta, and thus improved the land there. In addition to allowing the topsoil to wash down the hillsides, some farmers had no idea that crops should be rotated, so as to build back up the nutrients that a given crop had depleted. Then the basic idea of allowing organic material to decay, and enrich the soil. Most often grass and weeds, as well as stalks from harvested crops, were  cut, and burned instead of being plowed into the soil. Whatever manure that was available from the livestock was spread on the land. The supply of this organic material was not adequate to supply the needs.

 

It was not uncommon to clear a wooded area to provide  a New ground. Often, this was basically the poorest soil.  However, at first, it was rich from the abundance of leaves, and underbrush that had decayed on the soil over  the years that trees had been growing there. It was difficult to cultivate because the stumps were left in the ground most often. If there were very large trees, their stumps would be dynamited  to remove them in some cases. Usually, stumps, and roots from smaller trees were left, plowed around, and over until they rotted out. Usually, by the time the stumps, and roots were no longer a problem in these new grounds, the soil was pretty well depleted.

 

When all of these bad practices had taken their toll, it was time to sell that farm to someone less fortunate, and move on. Fortunately, conservation was  brought into the area before all of the land became a wasteland. This process was just starting when I left the farm, but it took years to start bringing  back fertility.

 

Likewise, all of the game animals were killed off.  By the time I grew up there were no Deer. This animal had been plentiful before. It wasn't for their food value that these animals were killed. They were thought of as a nuisance. Many of them ate gardens, and crops. Some of them were dangerous to small children. So they were trapped, or shot.  The rule of thumb seemed to be, if it is wild, get rid of it. There were more affluent farmers who were interested if hunting fox. Not for their pelts, but  for the sport of hearing their hounds trailing the fox to his den. To supply the fox for this sport, it was most often necessary to  buy the animals, usually in pairs, and plant them nearby.  This was done by placing a pair of fox in  a large wooden box. The box had a hole cut in one side, large enough for the fox to get through. It was then buried in the side of a hill. The fox would dig out through the hole, and the dirt in front of it. This would then provide a permanent den for the fox family. with this known location, the hounds could be turned lose nearby to start the chase. These fox were never killed unless the hounds did it before the hunter could  get  to them.

 

Another practice that was prevalent was clearing the fence rows. This provides an excellent cover for birds and small game. It also provides a stable place for insects to live, and reproduce. To the farmers of that day, these things were no more than a nuisance. Also, the fields looked much neater if they were not grown up with bushes, small trees, grass, and weeds.

 

This systematic destruction of wild life had almost completely upset the balance of nature. With their natural predators gone, destructive insects were free to destroy much of the crops. For some reason we did not understand the necessity of this balance.  The few mink, an muskrats that inhabited the marshes were trapped during the winter, and their pelts sold for a pittance. By my teen age there were a few cotton tail rabbits, some squirrel in the wooded areas, some quail in the grasslands, but game was scarce. Even the few species that were left just barely managed to maintain themselves with little, or no increase in their population.

 

Gradually, in the late 1920's, the idea of conservation started to catch on. Gullies that were to large to reclaim were filled, and diked to stop erosion. Organic material was being plowed into the soil, and crop rotation was being used.  Before this enlightenment, it was common practice to allow a field to lay fallow for a few years when it had been depleted. Many of these measures were not need in  the fertile farmlands outside the bounds of our small world. Even there, the land was not husbanded as it should have been. Like the most of our natural resources it was squandered because there seemed to be no end to it. The realization of this waste came in time to turn this system around. It is ironic that this land was largely populated by Europeans  who always had limited amounts of farmland, that had to be saved.  Yet here, it was too plentiful. This led to its waste.

 

It has been  sixty five years or more since conservation was brought in. Now, some of the people who stayed in the area cultivate hundreds of acres of this reclaimed land. They have  removed the stumps, and brought the soil back to fertility. Now, instead of subsistence farming, it is done as a big business. Instead of mules, and horses, they ride air conditioned tractors over several of the old individual farms.  Enough of the younger people left the area to allow for more efficient use of the land. The roads have been paved, houses have been modernized. With the Tennessee Valley Authority, electricity is now available to everyone.  With the advent of television, a window has been opened to the outside world. There are still small pockets of people who have refused to give up the ways of their ancestors, but the countryside is far different form the days when I lived there.

 

Other parts of the country probably did have more knowledge of the land,  and how to protect it. Also, erosion is not a problem in flat land. It is possible that other parts of the country took advantage of the organic material that was considered a nuisance in Tennessee. It was thought that burning vegetation from the land would prevent grass and weeds from growing with the crops. Several of the Southern states isolated themselves from the more prosperous Northern states after the Civil War. This probably had an impact on the progress of these Southern states. The hilly nature of the land,  made it a natural for erosion.  Combined, these things determined the fate of the small Southern farmer. He was doomed to live from crop to crop.


 

Chapter 8 Entertainment

 

There were efforts made to bring  bits of culture, and entertainment to the country.  Perhaps once, or twice a year, a movie would come to the nearest village. For these occasions, a large tent was erected in a central location, the word having been put out by word of mouth well in advance. When the night came, just about everyone in the area came. There was an admission charge, but I think it was perhaps ten cents for adults, and  five cents for children old enough to occupy a spot on a bench.  The movies themselves were very exciting. The characters were extremely dramatic, and this was foreign to anything we had seen before.  Of course there was no sound, and you had to be a pretty fast reader to get the gist of the dialog from the sub-titles.

 

Electricity for us this far out in the country, was still several years in the future, so the motion picture projector had to be hand-cranked.  Some of the purveyors were adept at turning the crank steadily, and at a uniform speed, some were not. The pictures were jerky, and gave the appearance that everyone was running. I didn't know it at the time, but years later when I  was involved with motion pictures in the USAF, I learned that the film speed of that day was so slow that motion pictures had to be shot at twelve to sixteen frames per second. When this was run through a projector at a normal speed, it gave the jerky, running appearance. Slow motion is at least sixty four frames per second.

 

Perhaps, because of the poor film quality, the makeup of the actors, and actresses was in extreme contrast. Hair would be photographed very black, and faces chalk white. There was very little gradation of tones. The stark contrast made them appear ghostly, but to me that was the norm during my  youth.

 

Another bit of culture was the stage plays that would also show up in the village. They were usually restricted to no more than once a year. This was always in the summer when it was warm enough to watch them in a tent. These too tended to be high drama. The stage was lighted by carbon arc light, or lanterns. Again there was no electricity. While the audiences were seldom more than a hundred people, actors had to speak in a voice loud enough to be heard in any part of the tent. The dramatic tone, together with the loud voice gave the dialog an artificial sound that I came to think was probably the proper way to talk. Fortunately, if I tried to emulate it at all, it soon wore off. I also noticed that they did not use the country dialect that was common in my world. So I would occasionally use isn't, or aren't instead of aint. This too lasted only a few days. 5I think it stayed in my sub-conscious though, because I was able to shift into proper verbiage quite easily when I started to absorb some English grammar, and become more or less proficient with my Spelling lessons.

 

In the community there were always ideas to bring the young people together. It always seemed that there was a dual purpose to these gatherings. They had an element of entertainment, but they usually involved some work. For example, in the early winter when all of the dry beans had been picked. An enterprising mother might invite the older boys, and girls of the neighborhood to spend the evening shelling beans in front of the fireplace. This served to bring the sexes together in a safe environment where they could get better acquainted with each other. Then there would be a period for games after the beans were shelled. These games were similar to square dancing, but there was only contact of hands. Card games were not permissible, except for something called Arthurs, played with cards that were home made from pieces of cardboard. My memory does not serve me well enough to describe this game, nor the game of Old  Maids. I do remember that the prohibition of regular playing cards was based on the possibility of leading to gambling.

 

Any recorded music that was available was from the phonograph with a cylindrical record. These were very scratchy, and hard to hear. I suppose that an enterprising couple could have picked up enough  melody to dance together if they were able to have enough privacy for that . The tonal quality of this music depended to some degree on the amount of winding of the spring. This was done by a crank on the side of the machine. If the spring tension was weak, the music would be rendered at a much slower tempo.

 

This idea was extended to stripping tobacco, and even picking cotton.; It was well received by the young people. It was a means of breaking the ice, and often led to more serious thoughts between the young men, and women. Often, after these events, the young men would dress in their blue  serge suit, and come calling on the girls. These meetings were a form of courtship, but they were very stilted. Perhaps this was because there was little privacy. they did always sit in the parlour, if there was one. The idea was to give them a chance to talk to each other about those things that young people talked about, but, at the same time, provide enough distraction that nothing else was likely to happen.

 

Tobacco was grown for market, but everyone was forbidden to use it in any way. This prohibition was easy to enforce for the type of tobacco that was grown in our area. It was of the long green variety. I never did know  just how this was used on a large scale. It was grown to have thick, heavy leaves. In contrast, Burley tobacco that is used for cigarets, and most chewing tobacco, is a light leaf that is air cured, and is very mild. Since its use was forbidden, of course, I tried it, as did all of the other kids. I tried chewing it, as the Cox boys did, but I could not begin to tolerate that.  I tried rolling it into cigars because I saw some of the neighbor men use it that way. That too was a failure. Then I tried crumbling the dry leaves, and rolling a cigaret  using pieces of newspaper to wrap them in. This was also too much for me. It was a bit embarrassing  because the smallest Cox boy always had a chew in his jaw. Walter, and Nora Cox did not object to their boys using tobacco. There were five , or six of them. It was difficult for me to be sociable with them, since their tobacco chewing, and smoking was not for me. It did happen that one of the older ones occasionally had "store boughten," cigarets. I could tolerate that smoke,  but some of the brands still nauseated me.

 

This tobacco had to be stripped for market. That is, it was stripped from the stalk, and tied in "hands" by folding, and wrapping  a leaf around the top of the bunch. The stem ends of the leaves were held evenly together in the hand, and a neat wrapping was required to hold bunches of these leaves together, and  create a uniform appearance when it was stacked in the warehouse for sale. First, the father, or one of the elders who knew about such matters would "sort the tobacco for stripping. Sorting consisted of taking off any leaves that were of poor market quality, and  making coarser hands of these to be sold as "Lugs."  I think this scrap tobacco which could

 

be small leaves, or worm eaten leaves, went into powdered snuff. This was a dust created somehow form the tobacco. It had a very strong smell, and was used by many of the neighbor ladies in their lower lip, under the tongue. How they could stand it, I do not know. It is the same snuff that many English noblemen carried in silver snuff boxes. They used a dust of it to press into their nostrils, then they would sneeze. I never knew what purpose this served.

 

Some of the leaf was also made into twists which were used for chewing. I noticed that usually farmers who could not afford the ten cents for a plug of  Red Mule, or Apple chewing tobacco, chewed these strong twists. There were also those in our community who carried dry leaves crumbled in their overall pockets, to smoke in corn cob pipes. Here again the more proper ones used  fancier Burley tobacco for chewing. I tasted both the plug which was pressed  hard, and had something sweet in it, maybe molasses; as well as the fancier packaged pieces of leaf tobacco which also had a sweet taste. I could not get the hang of chewing either, both made me sick at my stomach. These fancier ones were Beechnut, and Red Barn brands. It was not unusual to see a barn with the whole side facing the road, painted with an ad for these items.

 

Normally, cotton was picked before winter. The bolls would open, exposing a handful of cotton. It was best picked after it opened, before a rain. This kept it clean. Most of it was done in the field with each person pulling a cotton sack by a strap over the shoulder, and the long canvas bag trailing behind. It was six to eight feet long, and would hold twenty to thirty pounds of cotton. When it was full, or the picker had to stop for other reasons, the bag would be weighed, and the contents poured into a wagon with high sides on it. It was the green bolls that were picked before a hard freeze, and allowed to ripen inside, that were used for picking in the social gatherings.  The cotton was of an inferior grade because it didn't ripen, and open in the field. Still, with cotton at ten cents, or so a pound, the farmer wanted to have as much as possible to take to the Gin, and later to market in bales.

 

Some of these events led to a summer of courting. Boys from more affluent families were able to get a new buggy, and a fancy looking horse with shiny harness. This was a sight to behold for me. The buggy was painted  with black enamel, and striped like some cars are. It had a shine of the finish that you could see your reflection in. The horse was curried, and brushed until his coat was shining. The bridal used for these events had a check rein that was hooked to the harness. It was easy to see that this was highly uncomfortable for the horse. This check rein held his head much higher than a horse ever holds his head normally, But the dude in the buggy cut a fancy figure. I liked to get close enough to hear the squeak  that the buggy  made when it was new, and tight.  Most of these trips were made on a Sunday morning to church. It wasn't until the couple were engaged, and planning their marriage that they were allowed a bit more freedom, perhaps a chance to go to some evening event. Even then, their time was well accounted for.

 

For me, I was never more than an observer to these rituals. While I was in this setting, I was too young to become involved, except vicariously.  I did often think how grand it would be to have a new buggy, and a high stepping horse to transport some fair damsel, and me over the dusty roads. To take the buggy to the pond during the week, and wash ever little bit of mud off its shiny finish. To curry, and brush the horse until his coat was like a mirror. This was the thing that dreams were made of, but I was in my puberty. There were hormonal stirring when I noticed that some of the girls my age developing some interesting bulges in their calico dresses. Also

 

there was an interesting  broadening of the hips that was almost imperceptible, but enough to notice.  These new developments weren't allowed to show for very long. Soon the bulges in the chest were  strapped down, or the dress made looser, so that they were not noticeable. And the hips were girdled before they could become too interesting.  There were  a few young girls who tried to follow me around at school, and on the long walk  home, but they were always in groups. This made me keep my distance. I was very shy when these stirring began to be noticeable. So the most I did was to blush, and pretend that I didn't notice the attention.  There was never any serious consideration of more while I was on the farm.

 

Another form of entertainment was quilting bees. These were just for the girls, except for women getting together to make quilts for the family. Girls who were approaching marriage, or were just reaching an age for marriage would get together and finish up quilts that the girl of the house had  put together. This stage of the process was the finishing stage. The pieces had been sewn together, a cotton bat had been formed, and sewn to a lining. The quilt was then put into a frame where it was stretched taut. The girls, or women would then sit around the frame, and sew arcs of stitching through the quilt. As a row was finished along the edges, the frame was rolled toward the center, and anchored so that a new row could be started. Each lady did her best to make the shortest, neatest stitches.  These followed a pencil line on the quilt top. Somehow, they could do this while carrying on a constant stream of conversation.

 

By the time the boys, and girls were in their late teen age, they would start having Pie suppers. For these events, the girl would bake a pie from her mother's best recipe. she would then package the pie in fancy wrapping. If she were going steady with a young man, he would get the word about the packaging of her pie. He would then bid as much as he had to, to get her pie. This was usually a reasonable price, unless some other young man was interested, and bid the pie up so much that it was out of reach. This could be disappointing because the successful bidder got the privilege of eating the pie with the girl who baked it. The money realized was donated to some cause, or other.

 

Other than these things, there were parties that were called Play Parties. These allowed a certain amount of  dancing without any close bodily contact. They were always well chaperoned, but  parents worried more about them than other gatherings. Actually, there was never any chance of any promiscuity, unless the couple arranged it outside the party. I have no doubt this did occur at times when the particular couple was under less scrutiny , but it was rare.

 

Then there were Singings at the church on some Sunday afternoons that older couples were allowed to go to together. Also, there were usually revivals at the churches. All of these activities usually occurred under the watchful eye of the parents, or adult friends. Chastity was valued much more highly then, than it is today. That there were some pregnancies before marriage, I am sure, but they were never heard about. Perhaps the wedding was just pushed ahead so as to allow gestation to run its course without causing suspicion about premarital activities.  I was never aware of a birth out of wedlock, and I suspect that it would take a very brave couple to take that chance at that time.

 

I was a teen-ager before I ever attended a regular movie in a theater. Even then they were not talking pictures. There was an orchestra in larger theaters, or a pipe organ in smaller ones. I am not sure whether the musicians were left to their own devices in choosing the music, or whether it was provided with the film. I do remember that one became accustomed to hearing  particular sounds to fit the various scenes in the movies. If a train was bearing down on some poor soul tied to the railroad track, there would be an ominous sound. If it was a cowboy riding at high speed on his horse, it would be another. Then there were familiar musical sounds for dramatic situations. I usually found myself reading as fast as possible to keep up with the titles dubbed in at the bottom of the picture.

 

If none of the other forms of entertainment were available, one could always fall back on the Sears and Roebuck catalog. The quiet, in the absence of traffic noise, noise of machinery of any sort, no airplanes flying over was unbelievable. The only noises to break complete silence was the chirp of birds. or sounds from the barnyard. Away from this, there were long periods without any sound of any kind. The only thing to do was to meditate. Today, it would be difficult to duplicate the complete lack of noise.

 

Not yet included under entertainment, the radio.  The Presidential election of 1924, when Calvin Coolidge won the election to  President of  the United States, after finishing out Warren Harding's term, another wonderful experience came my way.  Herbert  had a friend about two miles away, if you walked across the fields, had a radio that he had  built himself. This was a crystal set, the most basic. Normally, it just had ear phones with which to hear what it had to offer. But for this special occasion, he had rigged it up to a phonograph speaker. This permitted five, or six people to hear provided they were very quiet. Even though, I was only thirteen years old, I was permitted to go along to hear the returns from this election.

 

My world was really expanding, I had already had a ride on a passenger train, now this. It was just about the most exciting thing that I could think of. There was scratchy sounds, but still, here I was sitting in a farm house in Tennessee, hearing people talk from Washington, D.C. Though there was static, the reception was as good or better than that of our telephone for distances as far as Dresden, Tennessee. In fact, it was a rare occasion when the folks would try to call someone that far away. That was ten to twelve miles over the bare wire that carried the telephone messages back and forth. What was the world coming to, was there no end to These. new developments? Soon, everyone would be getting a radio.

 

This experience just added to the stirring in me. There must be many more things out there just for the discovery. I had heard some talk of the radio, but I couldn't imagine what a great invention it was. Maybe, this could help to improve reception over the telephone. Certainly, if they could send the spoken word through the air without a wire, it must be possible to do better with the telephone. I didn't realize, of course, that already there were more   sophisticated telephone systems than ours in the country.


 

Chapter 9 Transition:

 

It was when I was about thirteen that things began to change. I think my folks knew all along , that there was a much bigger world out there than the sixty mile  radius of our world. If so, they didn't talk  about it.  I had ridden on a train a couple of times, and now knew that it was possible to travel faster. This also meant that one could go far beyond our area, if he had the financial means.  This was also a time when Uncle Will Kimble had gone to the area of Fulton, Kentucky to farm. A wealthy man who owned the Browder Milling Company in Fulton,  had him farming several acres for him. He had convinced my folks that they might do better in that area. The land was flatter, and more fertile. So it was that my dad rented a farm near Fulton.

 

Fulton, Kentucky was a town of , perhaps 5,000 at the time. It was a combination farming, and railroad town. Fulton sits astride the State line between Kentucky, and Tennessee near the west end of both states. Uncle Will, and Aunt Ida (Mom's sister) and their eight, or nine kids  lived on the South side of the State Line just West of Town. They lived in the first brick house that I remember ever seeing on the inside. I had seen a few brick houses in Dresden, Tennessee, usually the homes of  doctors, lawyers, or merchants. Certainly, it didn't seem possible for a farmer to live in such style.

 

Papa rented a farm from a wealthy farmer about two miles North of town. So, we lived in Kentucky, while Uncle Will, and Aunt Ida were in Tennessee, a few miles from us. I had travelled between Tennessee, and Kentucky a few times, but I hadn't been too aware of  State Lines. Having a town that was partially in two states  gave me a better concept of geography.

 

As I recall, we brought our own livestock, but the farmer we rented from provided the farm machinery. The land was more fertile, an much more productive. We only stayed one or two years. Papa did not like the idea of not being his own boss completely. I remember the landlord worked for the Public Service Company in Fulton, so he wasn't around that much.  I had heard that his pay was $100.00 a month. This was  an awful lot of money in that day. He was terribly rich.

 

In this setting, my life changed , not only from being in puberty, but most other aspects of life were different. For example, I had to walk into town for Junior High School. Enroute, I had to pass through the  Fulton suburb of Riceville. This was the home of the railroad yards of the Illinois Central Railroad. Most of the kids who lived in Riceville were children of people who worked on the railroad. These were kids, the like of which I had never seen. They used language that I had never used for fear of getting my mouth washed out with soap. In addition, they were as tough as nails, a whole new experience for me. Thus far in my life, the kids in my world were very much alike. There was some fighting, but just adequate to establish a 'pecking' order. Now I was confronted with kids who fought just because they immediately recognized that I was from the country.

 

My life had been one of strict discipline to that point. Papa always told me that if I got into a fight, and he heard about it, he would give me another whipping when I got home.  Under  my  previous way of life, this was easy to live up to. Now, I was confronted with a fight, almost every evening on my way home from school. Often the kid would be smaller than me, but he was backed up by several larger boys. So, my life became hell. I was coming home with bruises, and often a black eye. Papa became curious after a few days, and asked me how I was getting so banged up. When I told him that the kids in Riceville, were beating up on me every afternoon, he wondered what I was doing to them. When I explained that he had always forbidden me to fight, he was angry. Not at me, but at the system. So the following afternoon, he met me in Riceville. I had told him where the fights usually occurred. Not really fights because I was not fighting back.  He confronted the gang of kids that had been my tormentors. He inquired of them why they were beating me. The kids really didn't have an answer. So he told them, "I have always told Everett That if he got into a fight , I would give him a whipping when he got home. Now, I am telling him if he doesn't whip you when you attack him, I will give him another whipping when he gets home." This did the trick,  These kids never attacked me again.

 

Breaking into  junior high school, and  being in town every day was all new to me. We hadn't had junior high schools in the country, in fact we had , at most, two rooms in our school. Now there were two enormous brick buildings on the campus, one for high school, and one for junior high. The kids dressed differently too. For the most part, they had clothing similar to my Sunday clothes. While I had the same kind of clothes that I had been used to. Many of the garments simply cut off at the legs to make Herbert's clothes short enough for me. The fact that they were too large otherwise made little difference. This made me an object of teasing, and ridicule. I did not pass this information along to my parents. I recognized that they couldn't do better. In this period of my life, I was about to grow tall, so I ate more than usual. I think partially because I was growing, and partially out of frustration. So, I got fat. Now the kids called me fatty. Fortunately, I started growing taller, and the fat son disappeared.

 

This was a difficult period to go through, even under stable conditions, but made harder by the new surroundings. However, my world was growing. Now I started learning some Geography in school, and learning about things far beyond my world. During the summer that we were on this farm, a most wonderful thing happened.  U. S. Route 45 was just to the East of this farm. I learned that it was going to be one straight road that ran from Chicago to Miami. First it connected Fulton, Kentucky to Memphis.  The important thing was that they started putting a concrete surface on this road right by our rented farm. I had never heard  of such a road before. True, some of the streets in Paducah and Mayfield were brick, and some of them had a black top, but concrete?  This was just like the sidewalks that I had started to take for granted on the way to school.  Also, this road was wide enough that two cars could pass each other without one of them pulling off. What a miracle.

 

Herbert had joined the Navy the year before. He had been home on furlough one time, and told me about travelling on a big ship around South America. He had attended the Navy Music School, at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Even that was worlds away, but South America?  He had also been privileged to play for General "Blackjack" Pershing  who was making a Good Will tour around South America, and putting in at most of the ports along the way. This stretched the imagination. Also, he told me about a most unusual experience when his ship crossed the Equator. My geography class had just taught me about this dividing line between North and South. It seems that all of the new people who had not been initiated into Davey Jones Locker, including General Pershing himself, had a most unusual initiation. He had a certificate showing that he had been in the company of Davey Jones, and all of the creatures of the sea. Now, I was beginning to feel a stirring of something inside me that made me want to venture outside the world that I had known to now.

Herbert was sent home on a hardship discharge to help with the farm.. However, by the time the red tape was all cut, the emergency that brought him home was over. So, it was only a short time until he had joined the Army Air Corps, at Chanute Field, R antoul, Illinois.

 

In 1925, we moved about  fourteen miles South, and rented a farm from George Gibbs, just South of Martin, Tennessee,  There, I started High School in town. This was another new, and challenging situation. Here the people in my classes were grown up men, and women. For various reasons they had never finished high school. Now here I was, a fourteen year old boy, poorly dressed with classmates who were grown ups, and many of them dressed is Sunday suits, and ties. I felt completely out of my element. Our football team was made up with men who weighed well over 150 lbs. It was unthinkable for a boy to go out for the team. This was not only true for Martin High School, but for most of their competitors.  The Basketball team was the same. So the closest I came to athletics was to try to throw a few goals on the basket ball court which was outside. I didn't have too many problems with my high school subjects. I was exposed to the laboratory in General Science, and I learned some unusual words in Latin. Just why we took Latin, and how it could help, since it was already a dead language, I didn't know. I did not question it because everything was different from the things that I had been taught in school before. There was also Algebra which was far different from the ordinary arithmetic that I had been learning. I had studied  Tennessee History before, but now we were studying  World History. All of these new subjects presented me with more wonders that I had never dreamed of.

 

My sisters, Denise, and Doy were now working in Martin, at the Cigar Factory. So, we usually went into town together. I would drop them off at the cigar factory, and  go to school from there. The Primitive Baptist church that we attended was in town. The minister had a barn by his house, and he allowed us to keep old Bird there during the day. I started getting some part-time work at the cigar factory while I was waiting for my sisters. There I learned that there was different kinds of tobacco. The filler was one kind, the inner wrapper a different kind, and the outside wrapper was completely different from the other. There was much more to learn. The tobacco was taken out of packing cases and prepared for the cigar rolling process. It had to be sprayed with fine mists of water to make it pliable enough to handle. Then a person, usually a woman, called a  Bunchmaker, had a table between two rolling tables. This person made bunches for two cigar rollers. These were simply bundles of tobacco just the right size for the brand of cigars being rolled. The length was measured by the thumb and sides of the hand, then the right amount was wrapped with a rough wrapper. The roller then took a tissue thin leaf of Cuban tobacco to put the outside wrapper on the cigar. These women had a very tedious job, one end of the cigar  was covered with the wrapper, and the other end open, or tapered to the opening, depending on the type cigar she was making. Actually, the covered end was last. The wrapper had paste on it, and sometimes, I would see the woman lick it to make it stick. The finished product was put in a cutter that measured the length. It was cup off and placed in a box. When a box was full, it was placed under a press. This flattened the cigars, and they looked uniform. If the cigars were to have a band on them , this was done elsewhere in the factory.

 

William Gibbs, the son of our landlord was my age.  His father was more prosperous than mine, but I soon decided that I was the more fortunate of the two. William and I played together , and  soon we were experimenting with smoking cigarettes together. He had a younger brother James, and my brother Allen was about the same age as his younger brother. George Gibbs was a pompous type, and  he was very strict with his sons. There was also a sister. I had started noticing girls by now, but I was afraid to let it be known that I noticed  her.  We were doing pretty well with our smoking until James Gibbs decided to tell his dad about it. It was then that I learned that George Gibbs  (Mr. George to us), played his kids against each other to keep them in line. As William told me later, James had been sitting on his dad's lap when he was trying for some favor, or other. It was then that  James  told  Mr. George about our smoking. He had also been guilty. The first I knew of this was when Mr. George came to our house, and told Papa that we had been smoking. He said that he had whipped his boys, and expected papa to do the same with us. Papa had always said that he would whip us if we were caught smoking. Now, I was sure we were in for the whipping of our lives. Not only had we been smoking, but somehow, we were made to look like we had corrupted the Gibbs brothers in the process.  This was one of the times that I was really proud of my dad. He said, "Mr. George, you take  care of your boys as you see fit, and I will take care of mine.  I hope they never smoke again, but I can't possibly whip them now because you tell me to."  We did smoke again, but we were never caught. After that episode, I always felt sorry for William. I knew that he had a rough time. Not only was he held accountable for his deeds,  but  he was often blamed somehow for the sins of his siblings.  I kept away from him more after that.

 

It was here that my sisters bought the 1923, Model T Ford.  Herbert had been discharged from the Navy, on a hardship  discharge because of illness in the family. That problem had been resolved. It was one of health of my mother, I believe. He had now joined the Army Air Corps, and was in the Photography School at Rantoul, Illinois.  He married Louise Murray from Fulton, Kentucky, when he was home on furlough. She worked in the cigar factory at Fulton, and met Herbert through Denise, and Doy who worked with her. We had never met her before. Her dad worked on the Illinois Central Railroad at Fulton, and was a boozer. Her mother was a seamstress, and that was about all we knew of them.

 

Papa decided to move back to his own farm. This created somewhat of a crisis. My sisters wanted to remain in Martin to work at the cigar factory. I wanted to stay in Martin High School. The folks would not allow the two girls to stay alone, but they finally agreed to let them stay if they paid my board in Martin. We found a place to board with a Mr. and Mrs. Miller. They had a two story house with several rooms, and they had no family.  We were there for perhaps a year. Mrs. Miller always intrigued me. She was probably fifty, but seemed very old to me. I always thought she looked a bit peculiar, then I noticed that she had no eyebrows, and from time to time,  her hair would be tipped on her head. Finally, I realized  that she was completely bald, and wore a wig. That was the first time that I knew that wigs were made for women. Mrs.Miller was an excellent cook. She had home baked pies for almost every night. Here I got my first taste of raisin pie.

 

For reasons beyond  my present memory, we moved to another place across town. We were the only boarders at the home of Mrs. Keathley. She had two daughters, one of whom was married, and one son. We were the only boarders at her house. This was a bungalow type house, but it  had several bedrooms on the second floor.  In those days, we had to pay three dollars a week for room, board, and laundry.  It just buys a hamburger and trimmings now, but it was quite a bit in 1926.

 

Mrs. Keathley was a widow. She probably lived on the small amount of insurance from her husband's death, and the nine dollars a week from the three boarders. Her house was  was much fancier  than any house I had ever lived in, other than the Millers boarding house. It was bigger, and had several boarders. I don't remember if I had a separate room, or slept in the same room with her son. She also had a daughter  at home, and one married. I am sure my sisters shared a room.

 

Manetta Keathley was a tall, skinny girl. She was a sophomore at the Hall Moody College in Martin, this is now University of Tennessee, Martin. She also played the piano, and seemed quite talented. Soon, she was paying more attention to me than any other girl ever had. We engaged in several conversations which gradually moved us to the porch swing.  As I remember, she was the first girl that I ever kissed. This was all new to me, and I am sure that I was inept. She taught me. Kissing  in the porch swing, after dusk, talking, and singing while she played the piano was as far as this encounter ever progressed. I was a sophomore in  Martin High School. Several months after we started boarding there, the Keathleys decided to move to San Marcos, Texas. There Manetta planned to attend Southwest Texas Teacher's College. So far as I know, she did. I only saw her one time after that when she came through Rantoul, Illinois with her husband. They had been to the Worlds Fair in Chicago. They were both teachers. I was employed by the County to run a  Cannery for the Emergency Relief.  I probably made a very poor impression on them.

It could have all been different. We carried on a correspondence for quite a while. She indicated in every way that she would like to marry me eventually. She did want me to come to Texas, and graduate college there. I think her mother was quite instrumental in this. She had taken a liking for me. She even came back to Tennessee, and had me meet her to discuss going to Texas.

Of course, I neither had the money to do so, nor was I too excited about the possibility.  She was willing to have me live in their house, and loan me funds to go to school.  I did not take her up on the proposition, and never heard about it again.

At about the same time the Keathleys decided to move to Texas, my sisters were about to get married. This would remove the need for paying my board. I knew my dad was having a struggle on the farm. So, it was a time for decision for me. I made a poor one.  A carnival came to town. I had gotten a job in one of the game concessions. They invited me to go with the carnival when it moved on. I talked to my parents about it, and they reluctantly gave their permission. My dad told me that he was only doing it because my older brother, Herbert, had run away from home at about the same age, and he didn't want me to do the same. If he had said no, I would not have gone. I remembered the incident with Herbert. He had gone to New Madrid, Mo. in search of work. But he left without saying anything about it. He too was about sixteen. When he got to New Madrid, he was immediately picked up by the police, and held until my dad got there to bring him home. It was an embarrassment all around. I was only about ten when it happened, but I was convinced that running away was not the thing to do.

The stay with the carnival only lasted long enough for me to find out that it was all a con game. I was supposed to play with dimes that the owner gave me. I almost always won, but of course, I had to turn in the nice prizes at the rear of the tent. My playing was supposed to attract other players. I didn't think too much about it until I took over several times when the owner had to leave the tent. I noticed then, that there were never any winners, except for trinkets that were worthless. Finally, I asked how it was that I could win, and none other did. He showed me how it was done. If ten was a winning number, the number on the clothes pin was 16 with the circle large, and the stem of the 6 very short. Then when lawmen became suspicious, or someone had spent all of their money in vain, he could put his finger over the stem of the six, and show them a ten. This also worked for twenty six, thirty six, forty six, etc.

My moral teachings at home would not permit me to be a part of  such fraud. So, I cut short my stay  short, In fact , I left after one week. It was too much to let my parents know that my first try had been a failure. Also, I had not seen the world as I had expected to do. So I  did some travel on my own. It was not in style, nor comfort. I saw people riding on freight trains, and decided to do it myself. At first I talked to boys no older than me, and took my first rides with them. We would  sleep in empty box cars, and stay away from Hobo jungles. I didn't know anything about them, but these young hobos told me that some of the older hobos could be dangerous to deal with. If you had any money, they would take it from you.  I spent a month or more  just riding between Memphis, Tennessee, and Southern Illinois.  I would bathe in the creek, and stop at farm houses to ask for enough work to allow me to eat. This wasn't too difficult because I knew the way of the farm. I usually told them that I was travelling to find work, and could not afford the luxury of a passenger train. I don't know if I was believed, or not, but I was usually fed, and sometimes provided a bed for the night. I'm sure they could see the possibility of their own son doing this.

At the end of summer, I decided to take my longest trip. To visit my brother,  Herbert, at Rantoul, Illinois. It seemed logical to go there, and see if I could find a job..  I suppose, he was glad enough to see me. At any rate he  gave me a bed, and food. He did find me a job in a restaurant in town. The hours were long, usually at night, and the pay was poor. He took me to the base to see where he worked a few times. After a summer of carnival, and  riding the rails, the Army looked like a real possibility to me.  We checked on the possibility of my joining the Army with the Photography School where he was an instructor. 

Everett (left) and brother Herb at the Air Corps Photo School

It took permission from my parents, and a trip to Fort Sheridan, North of Chicago, to get an opening for my enlistment.  The minimum age was eighteen, I was seventeen. This didn't cause too much trouble. I typed up a permission letter for my folks to sign. I simply entered my date of birth as October 25, 1910, and sent it to them along with a letter asking them to sign and return it as soon as possible. Apparently, they hadn't noticed that I had fudged a year on my date of birth. So I was in. Years later, I changed all of my military paperwork to show that I was actually born on October 25, 1911. 

Everett practicing camera moves while leaning out of  the open canopy.

It was also during this transition period that I started to learn something of my roots. At about fifteen, I was in at a family reunion at my grandpa Spees' home.  There I met his cousin, John Christon Spees, of Newark, Mo. This man was very interesting to me. He called Grandpa his Kentucky Cousin.  He was only there for a day, but it was an exciting day. He had a little book with him that he had written. It was titled  The Spees Clan. It was very short, but it contained things that I had never dreamed of. On was that we had all descended from Frederick Spees who had  been through the Revolution in George Washington's Army. It had  never occurred to me to wonder about my ancestory farther back than my grand parents. Now there was something new to think about.  Sixty five years later, I am still finding bits of information.


 

Letter to his Aunt Phair, shortly before his death;  He was born on Aunt Phair’s eighth birthday.

 

3054 South Hobart Way

Denver, Colorado 80227

August 18, 1993

 

Dear Aunt Phair:

 

Thank you for your last letter. It was good to hear that you have found some relief for your back pains. I understand that there are some  Chiropractors who know how to adjust backs.  The  medical profession is just starting to recognize that some of them can help back problems. I have known several people who swear by them.  They do take training in adjustment of joints. I think they got their bad name with medical doctors by claiming the ability to cure anything with adjustment. Of course, that just isn't true. We had a big Chiropractic Hospital here a few years back. They advertised that they could cure cancer, or anything else with Chiropractic. They were expanding, and building a really big hospital complex. Then when people found out that they couldn't cure medical problems, they quit using them, and they went broke. 

 

Your letter would have been answered sooner, but we have had lots of medical appointments. Maude has had to have her hip injected twice in the last several weeks. Then we had company.  Our grandson, Bill, graduated from college, so he and his mother came from Kansas City to spend a few days with us before he started his graduate work at Washington University, in St Louis. I am sure I told you thast he won a scholarship for his four years of college, including board and room. Now Washington University, and several others wanted him to take their doctoral program. He elected to go to Washington University. They offered him full tuition for which they charge  $17,000.00 a  year, plus they pay him $1100.00 a month as a  teaching assistant. This is for a five year program. He expects to come out as a Phd in Chemistry. He plans to do chemical research, and teach in some college program. He just turned 22 in February.

 

Just before they came, Royal Spees stopped by to see us. He had been on a long bus tour. He could go anywhere he wanted so long as he went to one or the other coasts. He had been to California to visit one of his three doctor sons in San Diego. We had never met him before, and we took him to Greeley to visit his cousin, Mary Helen Spees Dalton whom we also had not met.  She and her three beautiful daughters took all of us out for lunch. Mary Helen had just lost her husband about a month before. He had a massive stroke, and died in three or four days.  She too was from Newark Mo. where J.C. Spees, both of their grandfather, and grandpa Spees cousin lived. They had both graduated from the same college in Kirksville that Bill just graduated from.

 

Royal is a character. We couldn't imagine anyone having the serious surgeries, and being near death with cancer, being able to make such a bus trip. He didn't seem any worse for the wear.

 

Speaking of cancer, one of our tenants who is like a young daughter to us, just found out that she has cancer. She went in for surgery last week for a radical hysterectomy. When they opened her up, they just removed one ovary and sewed her back up. She started chemotherapy yesterday. they were having a big meting with her and her husband at 9:00 this morning. We haven't heard yet what that was about, but we are afraid of the worst.

 

I hope you are all well and happy. I am doing fine but Maude continues to have problems withy her hip. She has had two injections of the joint in the last few weeks. The first seemed to miss the place that was hurting her, so they had to go back in and repeat it. These help, but the doctor says that she can only have about three of them because they have cortisone in them. With the one that didn't help, she has now had three. The only other solution is to remove the artificial hip, and replace it. That is major surgery, and they don't want to do it if they don't have to. It looks like there goes the possibility of a trip this fall.

 

Allen is home now. He is still unable to talk. Frances seems to think that he doesn't understand  too much of what is going on. He can get around in a wheel chair to some degree. She says that she doesn't expect him to improve much. The sons-in-law have built a covered ramp front and back for his wheel chair. For the life of me, I don't know how she can handle him alone. They will have a visiting  nurse, and the girls will be there as much as possible, but they all work. I am sure it is fine to send a "Get Well Card." If they don't want to read it to him, they don't have to. But tell them that I told you of his condition.

 

Please take good care of yourself, and give everyone our love.

 

Love,

Everett


 

Letter to Brother Allen and his wife Frances 7/1/93

Dear Allen & Frances:

 

It has been good hearing that you are making some progress toward recovering your mobility, and your speech. Patience is a virtue of which most Spees are lacking.  We are always in a hurry to get on with things. To make them happen immediately. At least, I am that way, and I sense that all of my relatives are somewhat the same. However, I am convinced that it takes patience, and will more than anything else to recover from a serious illness. To re-learn speech is a slow process. I imagine it is similar to stuttering; if you worry about it, it is that much harder to correct it. I have noticed that in people I have known who stuttered. I am sure it is more important to regain the ability to speak, that you completely relax, and not worry about how it is coming out at all. Slowly, it should come back to you with a good therapist.

 

Walking is probably another matter. While it would require a lot of patience, practice is probably most important. I am sure your therapists have pointed these things out to you, but believe this. Also keep a strong resolve that you are going to regain some of these abilities. The total amount depends on the amount of damage from the stroke, I am sure. I remember when I was a child, having seizures that rendered me unable to talk for short periods of time. By calmly waiting until I could figure out how to say the words, they always came back.

 

Being in the prayers of those who know, and love you, also helps a great deal, I am convinced. You don't know it, but Everett, Jr. has a lot of faith. He has told me that there are times when he has exhausted his expertise on a patient, and must leave them in the hands of God for their recovery. Often it works. I was convinced that  being remembered in prayers of people all over the country was a help in my recovery. It is a long road back, it takes faith, a fighting spirit, family support, good doctors, and therapists,, but it can be done. I have every faith in  your ability to do it.

 

I hope all of your daughters are doing well. I shall never forget their kindness when I was ill. I am sure they are all at your side for support when they are able to be there.  Please continue the good fight, an know that you are in our prayers. We are here for you, even though we realize that the hard part, you have to do yourself.

 

We love you,

Everett and Maude


 

3054  S. HOBART WAY

DENVER, CO. 80227

JUNE 1, 1992

   

 

Dear Allen & Frances:

 

We were sorry to hear of your health problem. I hope it will be taken care of soon.  I was a bit puzzled that they didn't  start on it immediately. Maybe  some aneurysms are less critical than others, but if so I am surprised. Anyhow, Everett, Jr. called shortly after I talked to you. I took the liberty of asking him if he knew any one good Vascular surgeons in the area. He did, a Doctor  Calvin Hernst. This doctor is at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. I told him that you had mentioned a town  South of you, but I couldn't remember the name of the town. Everett, Jr. has worked with doctor Hernst for three years or more at John-Hopkins,  in Baltimore. He said that he is the head of Vascular Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital , and  that he is top notch. I told him that you hadn't asked for any advice from me. However, he said that I should tell you that all  Vascular surgeons are not equal. So, I am sticking my nose in and suggesting that you  ask your Cardiologist about a referral to Dr. Hernst. My only concern is that you have the best available for a life-threatening condition.

 

In event you are interested in talking to doctor Hernst, I am sure that Everett would call him about  seeing you personally.  If this sounds logical to you, since this man is highly recommnded by Everett, Jr, who is qualified to know, please give me a call, and I will be glad to have Everett arrange for you to see him. I am sure your  cardiologist knows someone there, but he may not be as well qualified for this tedious surgery. You do have every right to request any surgeon  you want.

 

I hope I am not being too presumptive, but I would feel  better about surgery for you if we knew you had the very best. I think it should give you some confidence  to have someone of known expertise.  Of course, I don't know how  much you have heard about  the doctors there. It is  possible that they  have had as much experience as doctor Hernst. But, in case you are interested, I will ask Everett to call, and set it up.

 

We were glad to hear that you and Frances are enjoying your new home. Being near your children is  an important thing at this stage of your life. We are fortunate to have Mary Alice, and Everett, Jr. here. I am sure I owe my life to the doctors he introduced me to when I was having my big problem. I had never considered thast there was as much difference in qualifications as I found when my internest almost let me die. It was either through his ignorance of my condition, or perhaps he thought that a sventy nine year old wasn't worth the effort. It is a big help for Everett to be on the staff of two hospitals here. We don't see Bill too often. He is in Miami now, and he has taken a permanent position with a surgical supply company there. He makes less money than he did on  contract work, but  it is much less expensive than moving every six month to a year. He calls just about every week to see how we are doing. I don't remember whether I told you, or not, that he had gall stones removed by the  band aid method. He says that he feels great now.

 

I forgot to tell; you yesterday, that we hhad our 61st wedding anniversary on Saturday. We didn't do anything special. The party we had last year  was enough to last for five more at least. The kids went all out on that one.

 

I mainly wanted to let you know about Dr. Hernst. I think I gave you about all the news yesterday. I do want you to remember that we will be concerned , and will  want to keep posted on your progress through this thing. I think the most important thing in my recovery was my fighting instinct.  I just didn't have any negative thoughts about not making it. Alsso, the prayers of people all over the country was bound to have helped too. Please know that you will be in our prayers,k and that you have our love. Take it as easy as possible until this is resolved, and please keep in touch.

 

Love,

Everett and Maude


 

3054 SOUTH HOBART WAY

DENVER, CO. 80227

 FEB. 20, 1993

[this turned out to be Maude’s last birthday; she was 79]

 

Dear Allen & Frances:

 

We enjoyed talking to you this morning, Allen.  I had been planning to get that part of my life's story that I have finished off to you. Ever since I mentioned it to you, we have had lots of appointments, and I have just not gotten to the Post Office with it. I will send it to you now.  To give you a feel for what it is about, I just made a rough outline of all  the happenings that I could remember, then started  filling in the details. Mary Alice had  been after me for a long time to put some of the stories I had related to her, down on paper. It took me a long time to get started, and I have usually written one chapter at a setting. Then when the thought  process brings up more memory from my sub-conscious, I write another chapter. Then when I read it over, I think of things that have been left out. I have tried to make it factual, and to weave it together into a piece that is not boring to read. So far, the kids think it is great. This may be  partially due to the conditions being so different from anything they have experienced. So, it may not be as interesting to you. However, you experienced the most of it with me, through the period that I have written about to date. I would appreciate any correction of fact, or information that would improve it. I think it is a big thrill for the younger generations to get a fairly decent picture of where they came from. It makes them understand us better, and hopefully, appreciate the opportunities they have that we didn't.

 

None of this is set in concrete, and I may revise it as I go further, and remember details more clearly. For that reason I am wide open for comment that will improve it. It is easy to insert corrections, and further information into the manuscript. It is all in my computer, in the word processor. So I just have to bring it up on the monitor screen, and insert anything I want.

 

I hope your examination coming up this Tuesday finds you improved. Of course, the ballooning Aorta is not going to be improved until it is patched up. It can only get worse. I don't know how fast that process is, but I know that it is constant. I suppose some can hang on for life, but I think that is doubtful. As I mentioned to you, Everett , Jr. was working with a plastic, or nylon Aorta as far back as 1956. At that time, they were sure that it would last as long as it was needed. That was probably crude compared to improvements that they have made since.  So, mechanically, it can be taken care of well. The whole problem is your stamina to withstand the insult to your system. Your doctor, and the surgeon will want to be relatively sure that you can stand it. Then the amount of determination that you have to come through it will probably make the difference. When I was wheeled into surgery three years ago, I was more dead than alive. I was 79 years old,  and felt that I had lived a rewarding life. The whole family, that was here was waiting for me to come out. Our minister was there praying with them. It was a long time, and harder on them than me. I just went in with complete confidence in my surgeon, and a strong determination to go on living for a while. The rest of it, I left up to God.  Today, I am probably healthier than I have been for six to ten years.

 

Remember, you are entitled to ask any questions of the doctors. Even if they sound insignificant to you. It is much more comforting to have the facts. Often knowledge of what is going to happen takes most of the concern out of it. So don't feel that the doctor's time is to valuable to answer even the most basic question that you have. In the long run, it will be better for both of you.

 

Everett, Jr, Anne, Mary Alice, Darwin, Laura and John are taking us out to dinner for Maude's birthday, tonight. Everett is on call for both Transplants, and Organ Recovery, so he may get several beeps during the evening. I will try to ask him what improvements they have made in the artificial Aorta material over the last 36 years. If I do get that information, I will add it to this before I mail it on Monday. I will also include some of the medical summaries that I just got from my Cardiologist. These were just letters that he dictates to my surgeon, and to Everett, Jr. each time I see him. All of these people have maintained a close interest in my case. I think they know that they saved my life, and they are all very much pleased with their success.

 

We hope Frances has a very good birthday  Monday. Maude was 79 today, I think Frances is younger. We will be thinking about you, and wishing the best for you. If you can successfully get this behind you, I'm sure your general health will improve markedly.

 

 

Take care of yourselves. We love you.

 

Love,

Everett and Maude


 

3054 South Hobart Way

Denver, Co. 80227

August 12, 1993

 

Dear Mary Helen:

 

First off, let me apologize for not getting back to you sooner to thank you and your lovely daughters for your hospitality. We were very much impressed with your family. You are indeed fortunate to have three lovely daughters who are devoted to you. It is especially good for them to be near you in this your time of grief. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with all of you, and  as I say, should have thanked you long ago for having us in your home, and for the nice luncheon. In our youth we were far more punctual than this.

 

Last week we got a letter from Beecher which he asked me to pass on to you. He seemed to be in good shape when he left at 10:00 pm the same day we visited you. When I didn't hear from him for so long, I was a little concerned that he had problems with his illness. All of the surgery that he went through would have been too much for a lesser man. It was nice meeting him too. This was my first real contact with your family since I met your grandfather 67 years ago. I am just sorry that I went so long without knowing your family. You will notice that your father invited us for a visit 42 years ago. The only reason we didn't make it, I suppose, was the fact that we always started East when we took a leave. Being in South Dakota, we usually went through Chicago, then South from there to visit our many relatives in Kentucky and Tennessee, after my folks in Michigan. You would have probably been at home then.

 

I promised to send a copy of your father's letter of 1951, as well as the Record pages of Christon Spees Bible. This was in the possession of  Bill Griffin's sister. I had written to her for copies when I learned that she had the Bible.  I think I told you about Mary Syfus who is a descendent of Christon Spees' only daughter, Sarah. Bill Griffin, and his sister who live in New Jersey, are distant cousins of hers who were from the same family tree. In fact, they have added Wilson and Griffin family information to these pages. Their family is also included in the Genealogy material

 

Our grand son Bill was here last weekend with his mother. He was preparing for his entrance exam at Washington University. He finished at Northeast Mo. a week before, and didn't stay for the graduation ceremony. He is allergic to that sort of thing. He was so anxious to get on with his graduate work, that he told them to mail his degree to him. I will include a copy of his Resume. He made it up on my word processor so I can just print it.

 

It was disappointing that Beecher didn't mention how his health is, nor how tired he was from riding the bus for a month. His stamina must be remarkable to make such a trip after all the surgery he had.

 

I sincerely hope everything is shaping up well for you. I am sure that none of us can quite understand the impact of losing a mate of so many years until it happens to us. In a sense you were fortunate that you didn't have to see him suffer for a long time. On the other hand, the suddenness of his departure had to be a great shock. You are a very brave lady, and we admire you for it, but I know it takes a lot of adjustment. You have our heart felt sympathy in your loss.

 

Thanks again.

 

Love,

Maude and Everett


 

The filename indicated that this was a letter to Aunt Phair

3054 South Hobart Way

Denver Colo. 80227

Nov. 19, 1992

 

 

Dear Aunt:

 

Thank you for the nice birthday card, and your letter. It is always good to hear from you. We were sorry to hear that you are having back trouble. We know what that is about. I hope you are feeling better now. If you  can find something that kills the pain, you are lucky. Maude can't tolerate aspirin. So there isn't much relief for her pains.

 

Since I wrote last, we have heard from Louella. She asked about you. We told her that you had been inquiring about her. She has had hip surgery, simile to Maude's.  She says that she is doing pretty well, but has problems with her hands, and arms. She said that it is hard for her to write. She was wishing that you could hear on the phone, so she could call you, but she said she would try to write. Her address is still the same, though she has bought a mobile home. Her address is:  P.O. Box 62, San Jacinto,  Ca. 923288. I am sure she would be glad to hear from you.

 

This is just a quickie. I promised to send you a copy of  the story that I have been writing. So far I have gotten 32 pages.  I have just gotten started. The kids like it, and think it is unusual. Of course, they have never experienced it. I am sure that you will find it very ordinary because that is the way we used to live.  I have tried to make it  absolutely factual. If I have failed in that, it is because my memory is faulty on some of the things. So if you see anything that is not quite true, please tell me so that I can correct it. It is supposed to be life as I lived it. I will probably go back and add things to it. So  feel free to provide additional information that would make it a better picture of what happened. The Forward  is based on information from  Mary Syfus. She descended from Christion Spees' only daughter, your great grandfather, and my great great grandfather. The information on the Spies from Germany is based on a letter that she sent me, and also Jarretta, from one of her relatives in Germany, and it has not been confirmed.

 

I hope you enjoy  this. I will appreciate any information that you think will add to it. If you are interested in it, I will send you copies of what I write in the future. I have been at this for several months. When I get an inspiration from my memory, I sit down and write another chapter.

 

Please write when you can. Tell everyone hello for us.

 

We love you,

Everett and Maude


 

Undated letter to Phair

30564 South Hobart Way

Denver, Co. 80227

 

Dear Aunt Phair:

 

Thank you for your letter. I didn't have the information about Grandma's death. Also, Maude had thought that Doy told her that Mom had one or more miscarriages between she and Denise. Perhaps this was wrong. It isn't that important to my life's story anyway. I have completed twenty some pages now, and am only to about ten years old.  I don't know if it would be interesting reading to you, or not. Mary Alice, Everett, Jr., and the grandchildren enjoy it, but they had never experienced, nor heard of that way of life. Maybe, if you read it you could make suggestions, or corrections. I will print you up a copy of what I have so far.

 

It is not long now to our day, just a week to be exact. I think we are both lucky to have lived this long. It has been an eventful period, and we have both seen many changes, you more than me. I am amazed when I start putting it down on paper, how different it is from the days when we were growing up. Our grandchildren, and great grand children have access to more knowledge as little kids, than we had when we were grown up. They also have so many more material things that we never thought of because they were out of our reach. I am glad their lives are easier, but (I think we learned a great deal more in self sufficiency than they ever will. It comes in handy too, and is sometimes  better than just pure education.

 

Your back problems must be bad out there away from town, and doctors. You are fortunate to be able to take some pain pills that will relieve the pain. Maude can take nothing stronger than  Tylonol. She is fortunate that she is near the spine clinic, and can get physio-therapy. Each of you have some compensations that the other does not, in that respect.  I never think much about reaching the age of Aunt Wanda. She is certainty one in thousands that reach that age. However, with access to modern medical know how, we all may be living longer than present averages.

 

I would really like to be with you next Sunday. It was always special  to have a birthday on the same day as yours. Diane was born on Mary Alice's birthday. Pop and uncle Vern had the same one, but you and I were the only others that I knew about. It has always been a special event when we could get together. Not this year though, we have tried to get Maude's back and hips well enough for her to travel. She has improved some, but not enough. Maybe next year.

 

It was surprising to me too, that Allen was able to come down there from Michigan. I called him after getting your letter, and he said that he made the trip well with the girls driving. Maybe, getting down there  on a trip was more help than it hurt. They had to be there, I suppose, to close on their Tennessee property. I am afraid the doctors in the small town there will wait around too long to do him any good. He needs surgery to fix his heart, and the aneurysms must be fixed after that if he is to go on very long. I am hesitant to push, but Everett, Jr. knows a first class Vascular Surgeon in Detroit. I have told Allen about him, and he showed the letter to his doctor. So far they are watching it. I am afraid that Aneurysms are something you can't watch too long before they rupture, and kill you.

 

Lewis called yesterday. He said they were just about the same. We were talking about Aunt Wanda being 100 years old. I was surprised to learn that he didn't know much about her. He said that he only remembers seeing her a couple of times. I think he and Eugene are about the same age. I am also surprised that so many of the nieces and nephews live nearby, and do not visit. Of course, Howell,  Jerretta, and J.T. are about the only ones that make an effort to see us when we are in the area. I don't know if they don't like us, don't know us enough to bother, or what it is. I usually send Eugene a Christmas card with some sort of note, then I will get a Norman Vincent Peale Christmas card without comment. Maybe it is like we were when we were in New York City. We never did get around to see things on the assumption that they were there, and we could always go to see then. Then, suddenly we were transferred out, and never did see those things. I suppose we all have our likes and dislikes. One of mine is to visit you, and I wouldn't neglect you if I lived close by.

 

Well, I must quit telling you all of these things you already know. Incidentally, the Eugene I mention above is Eugene Spees.

 

Please give everyone our best if you see any of the relatives. Also, have a wonderful birthday.

 

We love you.

Everett and Maude

 


 

                     3054 SOUTH HOBART WAY

DENVER, CO. 80227

8/8/94

 

 

Dear Jeretta and Richard:

 

Excuse me for taking so long. I had no idea that I  would suddenly develop Pneumonia, and go in the hospital for two weeks. It came on suddenly, and without warning. I was taking my afternoon walk when I suddenly felt excessively tired. So I decided to terminate the walk, and come home. On my way to the car, I noticed chill bumps on my arms. It was at least 85 degrees at the time. I came home and couldn't find my fever thermometer. So I called Mary Alice. She brought her thermometer over, and found that my temperature was a little over 99 degrees. She consulted with Diane, and between them, they decided I should go to the hospital Emergency Room. There, I waited for my Cardiologist. He didn't think it was my heart, but a chest X-ray showed a spot on my lung. He decided that he would admit me for a 23 hour observation.

 

The 23 hour observation turned into two weeks. It was discovered that I had Pneumonia. Then followed an extensive series of tests to determine the type, so that a proper antibiotic could be selected to treat it. A broncoscope determined that there was an infection in the lung, but the specimen collected directly from the infected area did not produce the growth of virus, and/or bacteria that was expected. In fact, three, or four days were spent before I was put on an antibiotic. Meantime, my fever would bounce from 99 to 104 degrees. Finally, an antibiotic was decided upon, and by then my old, Air Force ulcers were acting up. So I had another scope to my stomach to review that. It was found that for the first time ever the ulcers were bleeding. This brought on intensive treatment to stop that.

 

At some point, I had transfusion of two pints of blood. This seemed to strengthen me some. By then I had been in a week, and the spot was growing on my lung as revealed by daily X-rays. It took fourteen days before the several doctors were convinced that I had beaten the Pneumonia.

I had my regular cardiologist, a pulmonary specialist, a stomach specialist, and a contagious disease specialist. The specialist for contagious diseases speculated that I had Legionnaires Disease, but the cultures collected directly from my lungs never grew anything to verify his suspicions. That is just one more strain of virus that are termed Pneumonia. The final answer was Atypical Pneumonia, aggravated by Congestive Heart Failure. It was a pretty good bet that I wouldn't make it, but somehow I did. I didn't have the usual chest congestion, coughing, etc. that would go with typical Pneumonia. Just the spot on the lung that grew larger daily for several days, then gradually receded. Chalk up one more time that the good Lord saw fit to have me go on living.

 

Two weeks ago today, when I was released, I thought I felt good. It didn't take long, however, for me to discover that I was very weak. I had lost ten pounds to 150 which is quite light for me. My muscles had pretty well disappeared. So I was in a position of having to rest often, but still needing to rebuild my muscles before I completely lost all muscle tone. It has been a rough go, but I am beginning to take my regular walks. I still  have to take several rests each day.

 

I hope all is well with you. I still plan to see you in October, God willing. I expect, by then to be back  to as nearly normal as I will get. The doctors think 14 to 16 weeks to recovery. I will be taking it easy, but still planning to be with you then.

 

Royal was released from the hospital the same day I was released. So we came home together. Helen had kept the house going, and enjoyed being in a home instead of a Motel. Mary Alice, her daughters, and friends took Helen to the hospital daily. Royal was in University Hospital, and I was in Presbyterian/St Luke. We talked to each other on the phone, but had little time to visit. They had reservations to return home on Wednesday after our release on Monday. They made the trip home in good shape. Royal is still talking a good game, though there was nothing they could do for him here. They found seven cancers in his Liver.

 

This is probably getting boring, but it is just about all I have paid much attention to for the last four weeks.

 

Congratulations on your nice family. I am sure the grandchildren really make a difference in your lives. Ours certainly did. Then comes the great grandchildren, they are an added blessing, and there always seems to be wonder in their eyes when they say  great grand ma, or great grandpa.

The family is what it is all about. I don't know how I could go on without mine, since I lost Maude. They have moved closer to me, and I hear from one or more of them every day. Yesterday, Mary Alice, Laura, and four of the great grandchildren sat with me for my first time back to church. They belong to a different church, but were there for me.

 

I am afraid family tree research has had to take a back seat for a long time. I have actually done none for three or four years. I have found Bill Griffith's offerings very interesting. The Washington connection would make you related to both George, and John Washington's families.

 

Please take care of yourselves.

 

Love,

Everett


 

                     

                       3054 SOUTH HOBART WAY

DENVER, CO. 80227

3/26/93

 

 

Dear Royal & Helen:

 

For too long, I have neglected you. I enjoy hearing from you, but I just can't seem to find time to sit down with the word processor, and get to work. I got your letter from Edna today, again we were glad to hear what is happening with you. It has been a joy to hear that you are doing so well. Howell had told me that you were in a bad shape. It is good to know that some of us old timers can make a come back. I say this not knowing how old you are. If I make it to October 25th, I will be 82. I know  that you are a descendant of John C. Spees who was a cousin of my grandfather, Everett Finley Spees.  I wrote a letter to John C. Spees about 1952 when I was based in Rapid City, S.D. I was seeking more information on the Spees family. He was deceased at the time, and I had a reply from Gayle O. Spees, I still have the letter somewhere in my files. I think Ira Spees went to California, and I think you mentioned your family going to California.

I would like more information on your family.  My father, Walter Lee, was born on May 16, 1883. He was the oldest of a large family. I met John C. Spees at my grandfather's home in Kentucky when I was about 15 years old. I was very much impressed by him. I read a little red   book that he had with him, titled, The Spees Tribe.  A few years ago, I had a call from Pat Armestead. She said that she was from a Spees family, (her mother was  J.C Spees' granddaughter.) She had a soft back copy of that same little book. My records show a Royal Spees, son of J.C. Spees, born 7/30/98, I wonder if he was your father? I don't think from Howell's description, that you could be that Royal Spees.  Do you happen to know who is in possession of J. C. Spees" records, family Bible, or the source of his writing about the Spees Tribe? I have been unable, thus far to confirm his writing about his grandfather, Frederick Spees having fought in George Washington's Army. I do not find him in the National Archives Revolutionary War veterans. There has been conjecture that he was a German Mercenary who defected to Washington's Army. I can't verify that either , nor do I find his name on any list of passengers arriving in the Colonies in that period. I am sure that J.C. had some records that showed what he wrote about, or he had memories of things that J. B. had told him about Frederick.

 

It was good that you were able to contact Michon. As she probably told you, they are in and out of Tennessee. Bill has long been a  Data Processing specialist. For several years now, he has worked as an independent contractor. He usually stays about six months with each corporation that needs his help.  He writes new programs to augment, or replace  the ones in use, then moves on. He did take a permanent position with a Surgical Supply  company in Miami. That went well until the hurricane came last year. He sat it out alone, Michon had returned to Tennessee. When he looked out the next morning, and saw the devastation, he no longer had an attraction to Florida. He did manage to be in Tennessee for the big snow that you describe. But he was due back in Chicago, the following Tuesday. I know he made it back, but I am not sure whether he was able to get out on time. I have the telephone number for their house in Tennessee, but I didn't have a street address until I got your letter today. He usually uses  a forwarding company with  a Knoxville address to get his mail to him. They do love Tennessee.

You probably learned from Howell, that my early years were spent in the area of Martin, in the West end of the state. However, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1928, I was in for one three year enlistment, then reentered in 1937. I was commissioned in 1942, and spent the remainder of 31 years as an officer.  Tennessee was very poor in those days, little pavement, no rural electricity, and very little to look forward to for a farm boy.  I never lived there after I was 17, but I did have many fond memories there. Michon spends more time than Bill in Newport. They moved there originally, because Tennessee had no state income tax. He lived in South Bend, and paid income tax to Indiana, though he seldom earned it there.

 

Michon did the shopping for a home in Tennessee. They were able to buy a house that had  burned out inside, and just had a good exterior shell. Bill had planned to rebuild the big house. There was a cabin adjoining it, by the creek which they could live in. The story is still the same. They love it there, but have never had the time to repair the larger house. The little one has been a place to camp between jobs. Maude, my wife, has had a hip replacement for four years, and can't ride that far, and I had five coronary bypasses three years ago, and  haven't driven that far since I talked to you on the phone from Howell's. So we haven't been there for a visit. Bill and Michon recently sent us a video tape. It was taken in the fall, and was beautiful.

 

We do hear from the folks in Paducah fairly often. You are probably aware that my aunt Wanda Gunn, was 100 years old last September.  Then I have an Aunt Phair Mc Neil  who was 89 on October 25th last. I was born on her 8th birthday. These two are my father's youngest sisters, and the only two surviving members of his immediate family. I talked to Edna the morning after Howell' s death, then we have called her since her surgery. That poor girl has had a rough time of it. We just hope she will make a full recovery from her malignancy.  I would talk to aunt Phair on the phone if she could hear. It is next to impossible to make her hear me. I called on aunt Wanda's 100th birthday, but neither of them could hear me. I have the same difficulty, as do most Spees in our family.  I overcome my problem with speaker phones all over the house. I also have an amplifier on one phone. People tell me that I sound like I am in a barrel  when I talk on the speaker phones. Since it takes so long for me to get started writing, I stay in contact with most of the relatives by phone. Howell's father was my father's youngest brother, Garth. There was a younger brother, Noble George who died at about 22, in the flu epidemic of 1918.

 

You know that Everett K. Jr. is a physician here at St Luke/Presbyterian Hospital where he came from Johns Hopkins about eight years ago. He was recruited to start a transplant program at St Lukes. He has been very successful at that. He has done over 500 kidney transplants here. He did the first  pancreas transplant in Denver, and his group has started doing liver transplants. He did head up the multi organ transplant unit at University Hospital for two or three years, but it was too many hats for him, he resigned there last August. He will be sixty on July 5th. so it is time for him to ease up a bit. I think you said thast two of your sons are physicians, but I am not sure. I know you are proud of your son Wade. I was Director of the USAF Photography School at Lowry Air Force Base here, through most of WWII. I graduated that school in 1929. My Air Force career was as a photographer, Photographic officer, and  Intelligence officer.

 

It would really be good to  meet you, and compare notes. Howell was about seven years my junior, but I know he really did enjoy his contacts with you. I haven't met the Dalton's yet either. Greeley is so close, yet I never get around to going there. I think she is Pat Armistead's aunt.

 

You did talk to young Bill who is graduating from your alma mater. He had wanted to follow in Everett, Jr's footsteps, and go into medicine, but he has had some very attractive offers from several graduate schools for master, and doctoral work in Chemistry. He plans to continue in the summer semester, and graduate in August.  I think the sky is the limit for him. He has had summer research at  Washington U. St Louis, at his own school in Kirksville, and spent  a summer with Everett, Jr. in Organ Recovery. So all of the schools who hear of him, want to offer him a fellowship, and assistantship.

 

I do hope that you are thawed out now. I suspect that  snows of that magnitude  are hundred year events. I never remember anything like that where I lived in the state.

 

Please keep writing, and I will try to reply.

 

Kindest regards to both of you,

Everett


 

Dear Mary Helen:

 

Royal asked me to forward this letter to you. During my stay in St Luke Hospital, either you, or your daughter wrote to Everett, Jr. asking for information on the Spees family. He forwarded it to me, and I was so busy recovering that I never did get around to sending you what I have.

Since then, I have done some work on it, but not much. There is a lady in St George Utah, who is descended from Christon Spees only daughter, Sarah. She is Mormon and has access to the Mormon Library. She also has a distant relative from her father's family still in Germany. He went to the churches in, and around Kassel. He found the information in the first paragraph, or so, of the Spees Genealogy. He said this was not verified. I used it as it was, since I couldn't confirm what John C. Spees had said about it.

 

John C. inspired me to look into the family background. As I mentioned to Royal, I met him when I was about fifteen years old. I have one of his letters dated 1909, in which he was trying to get information from Spees inOhio. A descendant of that man sent it to my cousin in Paducah.

 I also have a photo copy of a Journal that he wrote in about 1909, in which he recommended a new form of government. This was also sent to my cousin in Paducah, Ky. Someone found it in a house that was about to be demolished. It is about three hundred pages written long hand. Royal talked her out of the origional copy, and he turned it over to the Library at Northeastern Missouri University, Kirksville, Mo., for possible publication. Perhaps he told you about it.

 

We have lost track of Pat Armistead. She often spoke of you, and the old homestead in Newark. I wrote to the relative there that was a school teacher, but she had no more information than I had gotten from J.C.'s Spees Tribe.

 

I will send you a copy of what I have. Perhaps you and your family can augment it. sometime.

I would like to meet you, but we don't get around much any more/

 

Sincerely,

Everett and Maude


 

3054 S. HOBART WAY

DENVER, CO. 80227

SEPTEMBER 26, 1992

 

Dear Aunt Phair:

 

As usual, I am late in writing to you. I just don't get around to it often enough.  Maybe I am getting old. Speaking of which, it was nice of you to send me  the clipping about aunt Wanda's 100th birthday. It is remarkable that she has reached  that age. Is she the first Spees to do it? I have never heard of another.

 

We have been tied up for the past month, or so, trying to get a tenant out of one of our rentals. We have four, and we lease by the year. This one was an unusual case. They had been in the house two years, but he is a Roofer. He came here for the big hail storm two years ago. There was about a year and a half's work around Denver. Then he started going to Montana, Texas, and Oklahoma. She told us he had bought a business in Texas, and that she would be moving at the end of the lease. That was the end of July, but she kept wanting to stay. Finally, former tenants came from California who wanted the house. We asked for it back, since we don't rent by the month. She became defiant, and said we would just have to evict her. We didn't want to do it, but neither did we want to have an empty house in the middle of the winter.  So I finally gave her notice to vacate. She did move on Sept. 20th. The new tenants moved in the next day We have been extremely fortunate. Our tenants have stayed anywhere from one to thirteen years. It is usually two, or three, at least, unless they are transferred out.

 

Maude has been getting treatments for her back. We have been hoping that she would get enough better that she could ride down there. If we are ever able to do it again, it has to be soon, and it would probably be our last trip. I am sure I could drive there now, but when I get in my late eighties, if I do, they may not let me drive. If my sight went bad, I don't know what we would do, even around here. We have to drive somewhere almost every day, and Maude doesn't drive. She hasn't since we went to Italy in 1961. We would have to have taxi service, or depend on Mary Alice. That would  not be good. She is on the go constantly to take Darwin to Fttzsimons Army Hospital for treatments, so she would have almost no time to drive us around.  We have considered flying, but that would be difficult. You don't have a big airport, so we would have to land in St Louis, or Louisville, rent a car, and drive the  rest of the way.  Either place is much farther than Maude has been able to ride thus far.  Also, the cost of flying is getting  almost prohibitive. Additionally, it is dangerous anymore. I don't think the maintenance is very good these days.

 

At present Maude is having physio therapy on her upper back. She gets some in the pool, some is hot packs and massage, and some ultra sound. These have helped some. Her therapist gave her a cushion, and a backrest for her to try in the car seat. These also seem to help. But we just don't know how it would go with a thousand mile drive. So far, about twenty miles one way , is as far as we drive.

 

We talked to Robin a couple of weeks ago. I am sorry you can't hear on the phone. I would call you every week, or two if you could hear. I have speaker phones here.  They make it sound like someone in the room talking. They cost $60 to  $100, but I'll bet you could hear on one of those. I write very few letters anymore. I call Lewis, and Allen every few weeks, also Bill, and Maude's relatives, it is so much easier. Also, I can do it when I think about it. So very often I have wished that I could call, and talk to you. But with both of us deaf, it is difficult.

 

It is too bad that the local relatives don't keep in touch with you. They probably don't keep in close touch with each other. Maybe it is like we were in New York, we saw very few of the sights there because we always thought well we don't have to hurry, we can always see them. So when it came time to move on, we still hadn't done it. So maybe, it would be better if they visited while you, and they are still there.

 

I am thankful that you stay as well as you do, maybe you will reach and pass the 100 year mark. I don't expect that with my used up body parts. Maybe, if I had not smoked, and had taken better care of my body, I would have had   a chance. Speaking of such,  Maude asked me recently what Grandmas Spees died of. I couldn't tell her. I remember well when we got the phone call. I* was eleven years old. My dad sent me to the pasture to bring the mare that he was going to drive up there. But I don't know if anyone ever mentioned to me , what she died of.  I am writing my life's story a little at a time. I think I have 17 or 18 typed pages so far. I could use information like that, and what grandpa, and aunt Edith died of. I am sure you, or aunt Wanda could give me this information.  It takes a lot of time, and I am up to about ten years old in my story. But I have tried it on the children, and they think it is good.  Any information that you could remember, that I wouldn't know because I wasn't there, or  was too young when it happened. For example, I didn't think we had any still births, or miscarriages in our family, but Maude thinks Doy told her there was. Anyway, there were more years between Denise and Doy, than any of the others. So I wonder, did mom have some miscarriages, or still births? I find as I stretch my memory to the past, that there are several blanks that I can't fill. I am sorry that I didn't question all of the aunts, and uncles years ago, so that I would have this information.

 

It is good that you have your children close by. Our Bill is in Miami, Florida. He finally took a permanent job there rather than keep travelling around the country every six months, or so. He sat through Hurricane Andrew all by himself. I think he was pretty well shaken up. I told him that I had seen older people being taken to shelters there the night before it  hit, and they said some of them were disoriented. He said that he felt that way the next morning when he looked out. He had trees, and all kinds of things in his yard that hadn't grown there. Michon had gone back to Tennessee to do some work on their house there. After the hurricane, he drove up to Tennessee for about a week. He is back in Miami now, but he says there is still lots of debris around. Herbs. Patsy Carol lived in Homestead, the town that was flattened. We haven't heard from her in years, so I don't know how they came through it.  Louella is still in the same town, San Jacinto, Cal. We hear from her once or twice a year.

 

We drove over to see Vern and Adella a couple of weeks ago when I had an appointment with a doctor, not to far away from them. I reminded her that you said you hadn't heard from her recently. She acknowledged that she hadn't written. Vern has had cataract surgery, so he can't see to drive much. I offered to pick them up any time they could visit.. But they never call.

Well, that is about all from here. Oh yes, I did finally catch Howell and Edna in a few days ago, and we had a long talk with them. This id the first time since he had his stroke. Edna did most of the talking. I wondered if the stroke affected his voice as it often does. He sounded like he wanted to talk, but was hesitant. Also, some of the things he said, I didn't pick up. Of course, that is true of any conversation because of my Spees hearing.

 

You take care of yourself, and tell everyone hello for us if you hear from any of the family.

 

Love,

Everett and Maude


 

Letter to Phair Oct 20, 1993 (five days before their mutual birthday)

 

Dear Aunt Phair:

 

On Monday we will pass another milestone. You will be ninety, and I will be  eighty two. Both of us have been blessed with a longer than average life.  It has had its rough spots, and  there have been times for both of us that we felt we were finished. Then the miracle, we somehow bounce back, and go on from there. I firmly believe that there is a reason why people live  long lives. There are also reasons why some are taken away in their youth. We are not privileged to know why, and probably we shouldn't question the Good Lord for his actions. He has said that he will not put on us more than we can bear, and I believe it.

 

Now, all we have to do is to go on living as long as we are privileged to do so.  You are not ninety years old, you are ninety years young. I have always thought of you as my age more, or less. After all eight years is not that much. I always call you aunt, but I don't think of you as an older person.  What we have to do is take things as we can. If it is a bad day to move around a lot, just move around a little. Don't mention not wanting to live a long time. Remember, you are loved by a lot of people, including us, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and lots of friends. True, as we get older we lose many of them, but we just have to think more of those who are left. It would be a big drag to be helpless, and have no one around who was close to you, but that isn't the case for either of us. I plan on getting as old as I can, not for the sake of getting old, but I like to live. I think I was given a second chance four years ago when they patched up my heart, and I plan to make the best of it.

 

You don't know how much I would like for us to be there for our birthday. We can't do that in body, but we will; be with you in spirit. I also wish we could both hear better, we could have a long visit on the phone. Anyhow,  I hope you have a wonderful birthday. I expect that  Kathy and Gene will be having a dinner for you if they can. Our children, or Mary Alice's family have invited us to the Black Eyed Pea for my birthday. The food doesn't mean nearly as much to me as being with the family. Bill is in Wisconsin at the moment, and Everett and Ann are at Marthas Vinyard for a couple of weeks, but we still have mary Alice and her family here. That is two grand daughters, and six great grand children. So we will still be  a crowd.

 

Maude is still having problems with both her upper back, lower back, and her hip. She is getting therapy for the back. She is now seeing a back specialist who works closely with Everett, Jr. I am sure the doctors intend to be even handed with patients, but being close to Everett, Jr. somehow cause them to give us very good attention. She has only seen him once. She goes back on my birthday. He is having her also see his partner who specializes in hips, on the same day. His partner also works with Everett. Dr. Weeks kissed her when we left after her first treatment, I doubt that he does that with all of his patients. Everett tells us that both of these doctors are excellent doctors, and just fine people.

 

I don't hear from Allen much. I call  once or twice a month. He is at home now, and I don't want to have him think that I am overly concerned about him. I am, but he is aware that I call. He still can't talk, nor can he walk. Frances says that she thinks he understands them, and she can tell pretty well what he wants. The girls help her a lot, but they all live away from them, and have their own families, so she has her hands full. She said she had asked Lewis to tell you. I told her  that I already had told you. I am sure she doesn't have time to write. But you should feel free  to write them.  I talk to Lewis once or twice a month. They stay just about the same. He freezes constantly since his fall. I don't know if you were aware of that or not. When he fractured his skull, and they worked on it, something happened to his thermostat. He says that he keeps the heat on the furnace at 85 degrees, and runs everyone else out with the heat, but he still isn't warm.  That must be a terrible thing to put up with. Darwin has it to some degree after his extensive brain surgery, but not nearly to the same degree.

 

Ann is not well, she has something like the  chronic fatigue syndrome that you read about. We don't see much of her any more. She stays in most of the time, and she went to Marthas Vinyard partially to rest, an for parents night at Ben's school, in Vermont. I think we told you he goes to Exeter a fancy school that George Bush and some of the Kennedys attended. He is only fourteen, and that is a long way from home. But he is making out fine there.

 

I hope this does find you feeling better. I understand how much it hurts to have back problems, but hang in there. Give everyone our love when you see them.

 

Have a very happy birthday.

 

Love,

Everett


 

He headed this “Predestination”

Ephesians   1 4-11

 

4. According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

 

5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

 

6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved:

 

7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

 

8. wherein he  hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

 

9. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself:

 

10. That in the dispensation of  the fullness of times he might gather together in one "all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

 

11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

 

 

Romans 8 29:-30:

 

29.For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he  might be the first-born among many brethren.

 

30. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified , them he also glorified.

 

 I think this is the meat of the foundation of  the Primitive Baptist belief in everything being  predestined.  To one not educated beyond  the fifth to the eighth grade, this would seem to be all inclusive. In fact, it sounds pretty specific within itself, that the only way to salvation is to be preordained, and foreknown before the foundation of the world.  It is not hard to see how they believed that if these things were true, everything else that happens is also fore ordained . As I have mentioned, this was also the belief of Prebyterians, of whom grandpa Spees was one.  I think it was just as strong with Presbyterians in those days. However, while not denouncing it, neither faith dwells on it as much as they did when we first started to attend church. Our folks did firmly believe that you were predestined to be saved, and if you weren't, there wasn't much you could do about it.

 

If this concept was questioned you were told, " If you were predestined to be saved, by  grace, through faith, you would be naturally drawn to attend church, and hear the word. Who is to say this is not true?  I have less doubt about this than about everything else being predestinated.


 

                                        MAUDE'S PUMPKIN COOKIES         

 

2  cups flour

1 cup oatmeal

1 tsp soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter  or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pumpkin

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

 

Combine dry ingredients

melt butter, or margarine

Add  unbeaten egg , vanilla, and pumpkin to melted shortening

mix with dry ingredients, stir until smooth, drop on cookie sheet.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.


 

PUMPKIN PIE CAKE

A. G. REXROAT RECIPE (AG was Maude’s brother)

 

CAKE:

1 BOX YELLOW CAKE MIX

1 STICK (1/2 CUP) MELTED MARGARINE

1 LARGE CAN (1LB. 13 OZ.) PUMPKIN

4 EGGS

1/2 CUP BROWN SUGAR

1/4 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR

2/3 CUP MILK

11/2 TSP. CINNAMON

 

REMOVE  1 CUP  CAKE MIX AND SET ASIDE FOR TOPPING

PLACE REMAINDER OF MIX IN MIXING BOWL.  ADD MELTED MARGARINE, AND 1 BEATEN EGG. BEAT TOGETHER WITH A FORK UNTIL ALL CAKE MIX IS ABSORBED. PRESS INTO A GREASED, FLOURED BAKING PAN OR DISH, 9" x 15".

 

IN A LARGE MIXING BOWL ADD PUMPKIN, 3 EGGS, BROWN AND WHITE SUGAR, MILK AND CINNAMON. BEAT WELL AND SPREAD OVER CAKE DOUGH.

 

TOPPING:

TO THE CAKE MIX WHICH WAS RETAINED ADD:

1/2 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR

1/2 CUP CHOPPED NUTS

1/2 STICK (1/4 CUP) COLD MARGARINE

 

CRUMBLE MARGARINE WITH SUGAR AND NUTS, SPRINKLE OVER PUMPKIN MIXTURE. BAKE IN 350 DEGREE PREHEATED OVEN FOR 50 TO 55 MINUTES (LONGER IF NEEDED) COOL IN PAN AND , CUT 8" SQUARES AND SERVE WITH WHIPPED TOPPING.

 

NOTE: THIS CAN BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME AND USED AT A LATER DATE.


 

3054 SOUTH HOBART WAY
DENVER, CO. 80227
AUGUST 21, 1993

 

 

Dear Royal & Helen:

 

Thanks for your recent letter. We had hoped that the trip hadn't proved too much for you. You seemed to be in great shape here, but we were afraid it might catch up with you later. You certainly have an abundance of stamina for a man who has undergone such drastic surgery. Of course, you are still relatively young.  We were fifty three, and fifty when we made our ninety day bus trip. I must say that we enjoyed the freedom to go anywhere we thought of going. Also, we enjoyed the bus ride after we got into the swing of it. We always tried to get the front seats in the top deck of a double-decker. That allowed us to put our feet up, and enjoy an unobstructed view of the passing scenery. Maybe too, the passengers looked a bit neater, and better dressed than some of those we saw at the depot when you were leaving.

 

It was a pleasure to meet you, and to have you with us for the short time you were here. We also enjoyed taking you to Greeley, and meeting Mary Helen and her lovely daughters. We are sorry that we haven't known you for several years. Had we accepted Gayle O. Spees invitation to visit his family in Mo. back in 1951, perhaps we would have known all of you long ago. I told Mary Helen that she would probably have still been at home then. However, in those days my parents lived in Jackson, Michigan, as did two of my brothers and a sister. It was because we always started east toward Michigan, and from there to Kentucky and Tennessee.  The area of Newark wouldn't have been too far out of our way returning to Denver through Kansas City. But we were always short of time at that point. I called these stints trips,  and  not vacations. Maude always said we had a schedule like a train, and didn't have time to have a vacation.  In those days we had a thirty day leave, and we always felt obligated to visit our older relatives all over  that part of the country.

 

I told you that I met  your grandfather, John Christon when he visited a family reunion at the home of my grandfather, Everett Finley about  1925, or 1926. At the time, I had no concept of distances. To ride the train from Tennessee to my grandfather's house was a real odyssey in those days. Newark, Mo. could have been a very long distance away for our mode of travel. So I was thoroughly impressed with his coming to his cousin's home for this event. I was more impressed with the little red book that he showed me, and let me read about the background of the Spees ancestry. It was the beginning of my interest in genealogy. I also got glimpses of the chart that you have been interested in, my grandfather always kept in a trunk. There was also a book about the horrors of the Roman Catholic Church. I wasn't really allowed to read it, but I got enough glimpses of it to think it contained terrible things that priest did. I never did know whether this came from your grandfather, or not. I had never seen a Roman Catholic Church, nor a priest.

 

The material on the Napps arrived today. It does look very interesting. I am sure we would enjoy it. In our present state, it might as well be in Europe, or Asia. We have been trying for the last five years to get in good enough condition to get to Paducah, and Russell Springs, Kentucky. I am sure I could do it, but Maude has problems on short trips around here. The one to Greeley was the longest we had made for those five years. It wasn't too much worse than to Fitzsimons Army Hospital and back in that respect. It is about forty miles round trip. Maude is stove up for several days after such a trip. She just had an injection of cortisone, anesthesia and  hydrolizine in the hip joint. One shortly before did not have the proper results. You know there is only a limited amount of therapy with steroids that is permissible. She had the Chief of Orthopedics at University Hospital. He told her Internist that he had done all that he could for the hip. The next procedure would be to remove the shaft of the prosthesis that is driven into the bone, and replace the whole thing. To date, they have been afraid her Mitre valve problem was enough to prevent more surgery. Now, however, her blood pressure is coming under better control. Her Internist now says he thinks she could tolerate such surgery. The other biggest problem is the fact that she can't tolerate barbituates and opiates to kill pain.   Maybe one day we will get patched up enough. Then if we aren't too old, we may try another trip back that way.  It would be nice if you two could come out on another bus ride.

 

We do want to apologize for not being able to take better care of you.  You could see that it was a do-it-yourself situation here. Maude used to be a whirlwind around the house when she was able bodied. She still does all she can, but regrets that she is not able to entertain as we once did.

 

Congratulations on your approaching fiftieth anniversary. That is a time for memories, and old friends. our children got lots of them together. They really did it up right for our sixtieth two years ago. They invited people from all over. Of course, few contemporaries were able to come. Our old base Chaplain from France, the Southern Baptist we told you about. He was having troubles with his heart. A Colonel who was my assistant 31 years before, and whom we hadn't seen for that time, came up from Colorado Springs for the party. In 1961 they had departed for Berlin, at about the time we started to Italy. So our paths hadn't crossed since then.

 

Everett, Jr. Ann and Ben are on vacation at Martha's Vinyard. Everett will be there two weeks, Ben three weeks before returning to Exeter, and Ann will stay an additional week. Her condition varies. There are times when she seems to feel well, and others when she doesn't seem to be with it.  her late father, and her mother owned a house in Martha's Vinyard. She inherited a piece of it. I believe it is rented when members of her family are not using it. Her turn is in August each year. Unfortunately, this is about all the pure vacation time Everett gets in the year. He does travel to symposia all over the world. Just had one last in Toronto. He tells me those are periods of work for him. He presented five papers at the last one.

 

I did pass your last letter on to Mary Helen. I have not heard from her since we saw them. Now, if I don't close this out you will be bored stiff. I hope both of you are enjoying good health. Take good care of yourselves.

 

Sincerely,

Everett and Maude


 

Speesfwd

                                                   A  SPEES STORY

 

 

Foreword:

 

In the mid 1770's there was a lot of turmoil in Europe. Many people came to the American Colonies at that time. King Frederick II was one of the most enlightened kings of Europe. Still many Germans came to the American Colonies. By now the American Colonists were feeling neglected by the British Throne. They were not represented in Parliament, and they felt that they were being taxed too much without representation. Thus it was that a rebellion started.  The Colonists were ill equipped too fight a war, but they were able to keep the British troops occupied. This rebellion was not favored by the British Army.  So the British turned to some of the German Counts for  mercenary soldiers.  Thus around 1775, three German brothers  from the area of Kasel were inducted into one such group of German troops. These three  were Conrad, Henrich, and Frederick Spies.  They were under the command of German Colonel Rall in Trenton where British  soldiers and their allies were quartered for the winter. On Christmas Eve while Colonel Rall was partying and drinking heavily, George Washington's troops were crossing the Delaware River. There, in the early morning hours of Christmas Day, Washington's troops  took the defense of Trenton completely by surprise, and  easily  took the town. It is understood that Colonel Rall was killed in this battle, as was one of the Spies brothers, another was injured. It was at that point that  Frederick Spies, defected to George Washington's Army. After that he served until the Revolution was ended.

 

It was also during the 1700's that a young man named Perry came from England to the colonies. He was of Irish and English decent.  Both Frederick Spies, and young Perry eventually married and started families.  About 1789, after Frederick Spies, and Elizabeth Mosier had three sons, Frederick, George and Christon, they moved from Pennsylvania to Maysville, Kentucky.  At some point, Spies was changed in spelling to Spees.

 

Much later a grandson of Christon Spees, Everett Finley Spees, married Udora Watson. This was on  August 8, 1882.  On May 16, 1883, their first born  was a son whom they named Walter Lee Spees.  He was only the first of several children. When he grew to manhood, he met, fell in love with, and married Mary Eliza Perry who had descended from the above mentioned Perry .  Her father was Kencheon Perry whose family had  migrated from North Carolina to Tennessee.  He married Sarah Jane Adams,  and later moved to the area of Wingo, Kentucky.  Thus it .was that my family had its start .

 

My parents, Walter, and Mary Eliza  were married  in Kentucky on November 26, 1902. They started their married life in the "Weaning house " of  his parents. This arrangement was designed to give the young married couple experience of living separate, but not too far away from the protection of the family. It lasted for about a year, until his brother Roy was ready to marry Bessie Kahler. Then the young couple moved to a rented farm nearby. There were two or three moves in the next  nine years. The first two children, Herbert, and Denise were born in Kentucky, Graves County in the general rural area of Mayfield.  They were born on July 17, 1904, and  November 25, 1905 respectively.  The next child, Doy wasn't born until January 1, 1910. By then the family had moved to Palmersville, Tennessee, in Weakley County.


 

                                                  CHRISTMAS 1992

 

Once again we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It is almost impossible to find news in the News Papers. To do so, we are exposed to advertisements for everything under the sun. Each day the news anchors tell us that we only have a few shopping days left before Christmas. It is next to impossible to get into the Post Office parking. When you do, it is to stand in line for several minutes before we are served. When we go to the stores, it is again hard to find parking, and very hard to find a clerk to help you. We are presented with items that have been made by people all over the world. Thing that we can buy as gifts to commemorate the birth of Christ. Many of these countries do not believe in Christ, but they will sell you a cretch depicting his birth. A Jewish friend tells me that the Jewish Christmas carol is done around the cash register on Christmas Eve with everyone singing, What A Friend We Have In Jesus.  Do we still remember the purpose of our celebration?

 

This is the one season of the year that brings out the generosity in people. It is also the season that increases the debt on many credit cards.  The interest rate of 15% to 21% is tolerated without question. This becomes acceptable to some , while their investments, if any, pay 3% or less. It allows gifts, often lavish, when none can be afforded. It also, permits payments through next Christmas, and beyond. Is this really the spirit of Christmas?  Do the recipients of these gifts really appreciate them?  I see children with so many packages that they cannot decide which to open first. I watch them rip the fancy wrapping paper off, pull the gift out, then walk on it, on their way to open the next package. Then, when it is all over, these gifts can be seen stacked in piles in the child's room.  It is impossible to appreciate, or play with all of them. So, they collect dust until they can be given to one less fortunate, as used toys. After all, another Christmas is approaching, and room must be made for the new pile of toys. Could some of this money be better spent for food for starving people?  In addition to those we see on television, we have thousands in our own country who will be hungry Christmas Day.

 

Our affluence certainly permits us to provide adequately for our children. It is right that we do so. should  we teach them disregard for the value of things by  giving to much.  Would it not be better to give them a few things that they really want, and would cherish when they got them. Rather than piling gifts in front of them  in such quantities that none are appreciated?

 

The intent is not to be preachy. I always wanted to receive  at least one gift for Christmas, and I seldom did during my childhood. I can empathize with children who get no gifts at all, but I feel equally sorry for those who get too many to appreciate any of them. The same is true of adults. Not so much in great numbers,  but how often does the recipient wonder how he is going to use his expensive gift? One usually takes it home, stores it in a drawer, and only looks at it when he is searching the drawer for something else.  If we must be so generous at Christmas, shouldn't we, at least , find out what the recipient wants, or needs?  The chance is good that if he really needed the item, or wanted it badly. he would have bought it for himself.

 

It is the most profitable time of the year fore the merchant. It is probably the most harried for the  people who feel that they must spend far beyond their means to provide just the right gift for everyone. Piles for the kids to walk over, and gifts for adults to store.  Would we all not be better served if we acknowledged that  this is a magical season. A good time to renew friendship. A time to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child  for those of us who believe in him. A time to share good food with friends and relatives while we relaxed and enjoyed their company?

 

Thinking back over my 82 Christmases,  I remember none for a gift, or gifts that I received. I do remember that  three quarters of a century ago, my parents, their friends, and relatives spent the week between Christmas, and the New  Year, just visiting each other. Everyone was prepared with delicious things to eat. There were no meals served particularly, but  the goodies were there to enjoy. All of this, the good cheer, the renewal of friendships, the  fancy cookies, cakes, and pies, to say nothing of popcorn balls, stick in my memory. How is it that these simple things still reside in my memory, and the others do not? Could it be that we have become too commercial with the season, and forgotten the true meaning?


 

                                                                     CHRISTMAS 1992

 

Here we are again on the threshold of Christmas. How many things have we intended to do during the last year that we put off. How many of these intentions were to get in touch with  a friend or relative that we have been neglecting.  The answer in both cases is many. It just seems that good intentions get set aside. Not that they are unimportant. It is just that we get tied up with things that are less important, and let them slide.  There are times when we would call some of you on the telephone if we just had your number, or in some cases, if you could hear us well on the phone. All just excuses. we were just negligent .  Now it is Christmas time, and we must put forth the effort. Maybe age has something to do with it. Whatever,  we do wish you the very best for Christmas.

 

This has been another good year for me. my health has improved steadily.  Where I was wondering if I would see another Christmas a couple of years ago, I am now wondering if I will  live as long as my aunt Wanda. She was 100 years old on September 8th.  Aunt Phair, another of my Dad's sisters, on whose 8th birthday I was born, says that she really doesn't want to live that long. Perhaps she will feel better, and change her mind.

 

Maude has had a rough year with her back and hips. The one that was replaced had hurt since surgery. This year, she went to the head of  Orthopedics at University Hospital to see what he could do.  Louella, Herbert's widow, had told Maude that she had a hip replaced last year. She had seen a hip specialist, and was doing fine. This gave Maude the idea of seeing a specialist.  At first he was puzzled. Mechanically, the replacement was fine to all outside appearance. He thought it could be a pinched nerve in her back. So he referred her to a neurologist. No pinched nerve. So the hip specialist went into the hip joint with a needle while she was under x-ray. He found a collection of fluid which he removed. The hip felt better immediately. Fortunately, the fluid was  just that, fluid that had possibly collected over four years or so. She still has pain in the hip, but less.

 

Armed with that success, she inquired about, and found a back specialist. He has been less successful in relieving her back pains. He has had her take six weeks of therapy with hot packs, massage, and some ultra sound that has improved it. With all of this help, she has still been unable to travel distances. We had hoped to again go to Kentucky and Tennessee to visit loved ones. That was impossible, but we still hope. I suppose we are hopeless optimists.

 

Bill sat through the hurricane in Miami. He tells us that this was frightful, and that he has no desire to sit through another one. Except for the terror of the roof being partially blown away, the loss of electricity, and the loneliness of  spending the time alone in a dressing room, he was alright.  Michon was at their home in Tennessee when it hit, she was glad.

 

Everett, Jr. did his 500th kidney transplant in Denver, a month or so ago. On December 16th. The hospital, Presbyterian/Sl had a party for all the recipients and their families. It was our pleasure to attend. It is always good to see the many patients who have been given a new lease on life with their new kidney. The oldest, a 77 year old man, was really elated over his good fortune. He was far older than the normal patient, but an exception was made for him because of his healthy arteries.  Everett, Jr. had been the chief of multi-organ transplants for two hospitals in Denver. He felt that he had accomplished his mission at University, so he resigned there .Having one less hat has given him more time to relax.

 

Mary Alice has had a couple of accidents this year. Everyone in Denver seems to want to hit the rear end of her car. One of these accidents was a rear ender. The other was a recent fall in which she broke her ankle. She is not in a cast, but a  big black fracture boot. This has slowed her down for her Christmas preparations. Otherwise, her family seems to be doing fine.

 

 

 

Diane will graduate with her degree in Nursing this month.  She has been a very busy girl with a couple of different nursing jobs, and school on top of it all.; This will relieve the strain on her.

 

Laura has taken a selling position, and is doing quite well. She is much happier to have more time with her home and children.

 

Our grandson, young Bill Spees, will graduate from Northeast Missouri University in August next year. He has taken his Medical Aptitude test, but no results yet. He can go far.

 

Our grandson Ben, Everett, Jr's.  youngest, started in a very prestigious school, Phillip Exeter Academy at Exeter, Vermont last September. He is doing well too.

 

Again, I have to say that it has been a good year. I hope that all of you have found it no worse.

We have all gotten a year older, of course, but who would like to go back and do it again?

To paraphrase an old Irish prayer that  my Dad  liked:  May your paths always be downhill.

May the wind be always at your back. And may the Good Lord hold you in the hollow of his hand until we meet again.

 

Love,


 

                              CHRISTMAS 1994

 

This has certainly been a different year from any I have experienced. It started off with a great feeling of loss for me with Maude's passing on December 3, 1993. We had been richly blessed with sixty two years together, and a family that we were proud of. At first it seemed that my life was all but over. I had goals that I hoped to reach, but nothing was of great importance anymore. Then 1994 came along, and I dug into work to get the things done that I had set out for myself. Thinking in terms of finishing things up.

 

There turned out to be many legal problems to complete and distribute Maude's estate. This finally took most of the year. Then, at the end of September, I started a trip to visit many of our relatives. When I got into the trip, which was by air and much help from relatives to transport me, I found that I had shut myself off from the world. This is not to say that my family didn't rally around me with all the love that anyone could expect. They showed great concern and support for me. It was just that I had not realized that life still continues after the loss of a loved one.

 

The trip did wonders for me, I started to feel more alive. In Bay City Michigan, my two nieces, Sandy, and Janet, and their families showered so much love on me that I started getting back into living. Meade and Janet had just suffered the loss of Meade's sister, who was one of Janet's best friends. Still they had me in their home and made me feel really wanted. At first I was with Sandy and Grant, they treated me with great love, and much attention until Janet was in a position for me to stay with them as originally planned.

While in Bay City, I was driven to Reed City to visit my brother Lewis and his wife, Marge. Lewis had suffered a fall a few years ago, and still has a very severe problem of keeping warm. He had a skull fracture which apparently altered the activity of his natural body thermostat. This condition causes him to be nervous with several people around. So we only planned a brief visit. This visit was very rewarding, and it was great to visit with my youngest brother again. Meade and Janet took me to Reed City.

 

Earlier, Grant and Sandy had taken me to Washington, Michigan, North of Detroit, to visit with my brother Allen and his wife Frances. This visit was both satisfying, and very sad for me. Allen is two years younger than me. He had a massive stroke a year or more ago which rendered him unable to walk, and talk. I , of course did all the talking , so I spent most of the visit in reminiscences. It was good to see that he fully understood as shown by his facial expressions. He would grin broadly when I recalled for him, some of the things we got into in our childhood.  I was happy for this opportunity.

 

Then on Sunday, Janet invited all of our relatives there to her home. I had seen one of Allen's daughters at their home. Three more attended the family get together, but neither of the twins could get there. This party was one of the highlights of the trip. From there, I flew to Greensboro to visit with Mary Alice's son, my grandson Bill, his wife Mollie, and their two sweet daughters, Meredith and Jenna, my great grand daughters.

 

This was the first meeting with these two little great grand daughters. I knew they were sweet girls from video tapes that Bill had sent to Denver, but I was amazed at how precocious they were. Meredith was able to discuss with me, complicated aspects of the solar system such as the planets, and the speed of light. When I was her age, I just took these things for granted. Jenna was a doll. She is three, and as sharp as can be. She showed me everything around the grounds of their lovely home, and didn't really want me to see anyone else.

 

Mollie  and Bill were very loving hosts, and again, made me feel at home and wanted. We shared many happy hours together. While Bill worked, Mollie showed me Old Salem. I was with them from Tuesday to Sunday. Then my son Bill, drove to Greensboro from his Newport, Tennessee home to take me home with him.

 

 In Tennessee, Bill and Michon showed me a wonderful time for a week. Michon worked, but Bill and I just visited, and saw many of the attractions of Eastern Tennessee, and the Smoky Mountains. For those of you who have not seen it, it is beautiful country. In its own unique way, as beautiful as the Rockies. We drove to Gatlinburg, near Dollywood, to see that tourist town. Bill, and Michon have a rustic mountain home. They recently bought eighteen acres on the side of a mountain. Their home was built in the old style Tennessee homes. It has upright rough sawed Oak siding with laths, just as many of my early Tennessee homes had. The interior has walls the same as the outside, but they are painted. The big difference between this and the homes I lived in, the lumber was cured before the house was built. So it doesn't have the warping, and separation ours had. At the end of my week with them, Bill and Mchon drove me to Russell Springs, Ky. where I visited with Maude's Cousins.

 

Hollie and Myrtle were my hosts and made me feel at home and still a part of their family. We visited with Dorothy and Delphin Robertson;  Wanda and Welby Thomas, and Elizabeth Sloan, and their mother Rilda, and her husband; Alberta Jo, and Gary Gaskins, and her mother Ida; Calvin and Judy Rexroat; Esmal  Scales, and many others, all cousins or aunts of Maude. I could not have been treated more like family by these fine people. Over the years we have developed a lasting feeling of kinship. I attended church with them, and visited with their pastor, Garland Wilson, his  wife Jane, and many in his congregation that I had met, and come to know over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. When it was time to depart Russell Springs, my cousin Eugene Spees and his lovely wife June drove from Paducah, Ky. (no short trip) to take me to their home in Paducah.

 

In the Paducah area, I experienced the highlights of my trip. I visited with my aunt Wanda (my father's sister) who was one hundred three years old last September, 8th. She is very alert, and while she can't see because of cataracts which she refused to have removed, she still recited a poem for me with perfect feeling, and word perfect, Eugene timed it, and it took more than six minutes for her recitation. Also, one of my purposes was to have my birthday with my aunt Phair, I was born on her eighth birthday. We had celebrated our birthdays together over the years, but it had been several years since we were able to celebrate together. There were so many relatives that they had to rent the Masonic Lodge for the affair. No register was kept, but someone tried to count the people there. They came up with at least eighty. This was a wonderful experience for me. The Spees name is scarce, and it seemed unreal to see so many who will take our name into the next century.

There were many whom I had never met. From there, Eugene and June took me to Louisville, Ky. where I took a flight to Hemet, Cal. to visit with my older brother, Herbert's widow, Louella.

 

Louella was Maude's age. She had not been getting out much, and I encouraged her to do so. We drove to Big Bear Lake, and several other interesting places, as well as dining out several times. We had a very nice visit. Louella is considered one of our family by all that she has met. She feels lost without Herbert who passed away eight years ago. Enroute to California, I visited with my grandson, Sean in Dallas, Texas. We had a very nice couple of hours between my flights.

 

My grandson Bill Spees, visited with me several days in August. I haven't heard much from him since. He is a graduate student at Washington University where he is going for a doctorate in chemistry. This is his second year there, he won a Fellowship with stipend for the entire five years of study. In January of  next year he must take a comprehensive exam to determine whether he has the stuff to continue. Apparently this exam really separates the men from the boys. He will have a second chance in May if he fails the first attempt. I am confident that he will make it on the first, but he is devoting all of his spare time to preparation.

 

I failed to mention above that I had visited with a cousin, Royal Beecher Spees, and his wife, Helen, while in Tennessee. This was a short, but very satisfying visit.

 

 Since my return, I have started going out with a lovely lady whom I have known for forty years as a friend of the family, Sarah Davis. She was widowed seven years ago. We have found love, and decided to get married sometime next year.  Her husband, Linus, and Maude were good friends, and we feel that both would approve. We will let you know as things develop.

 

This has been a good year for me overall. I hope that all of you will remember in the many festivities of Christmas, that it is a birthday celebration of our Lord. This seems to get left out too often. My love, and appreciation to all of you for your love, and friendship.

 

Everett