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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Everett and Maude
3054 SOUTH HOBART
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
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.
Everett and Maude
3054 South Hobart
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.
Maude and Everett
The filename indicated that this was a letter to Aunt
3054 South Hobart
Denver Colo. 80227
Nov. 19, 1992
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
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
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
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
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.
3054 SOUTH HOBART WAY
DENVER, CO. 80227
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
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,
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
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
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
You take care of yourself, and tell everyone hello for us
if you hear from any of the family.
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
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
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.
He headed this
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
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 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)
1 BOX YELLOW CAKE MIX
1 STICK (1/2 CUP) MELTED MARGARINE
1 LARGE CAN (1LB. 13 OZ.) PUMPKIN
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.
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
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.
Everett and Maude
A SPEES STORY
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
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.
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?
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
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
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
To paraphrase an old Irish prayer that my Dad liked: May your paths always be
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.
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
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
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.