Friday, August 26, 2016

Up Town Saturday

Ice Cream Shop, Jamestown, KY, original Post Office
After the chores are finished the most important day of the week is Saturday, be it country or town. Breakfast is a hurried affair as each person in a household has special plans for the day. It is a day of socializing with family and friends.
  When people had to travel long distances by horse and wagon some families kept a tiny one-room house in town for sleeping over. In Texas, where some of these cottages still exist they have been restored as small homes for one or two persons. Others slept in & under their wagons or bunked in with family members who lived in town.
   The advent of automobiles didn't change the custom of going to town on Saturday for supplies, business affairs, recreation, and visiting. Even today though the meeting places have changed from Main Streets and school or church buildings people flock to large indoor malls with vast parking lots especially when cooler weather arrives. Saturday is the true vacation day of the week for the communities.
   Going to town meant visiting with friends while one used a laundromat to the the entire family wash at one time in a few hours instead of stringing it out over an entire day one load at a time. Even thought a family had a washer and dryer at home the men of the family never understood the desire of their women folk to use those big machines in town.
   Stocking up on a week or month's supplies was important for there were few country groceries near their homes where one could obtain all the goods necessary to sustain the family. The women generally shopped in chain groceries devoted to food. For clothes, sewing materials, and shoes they frequented a dry goods store. Children were delighted to view the bones of their feet in an x-ray machine, it didn't matter that there was a warning sign indicating harm from too frequent usage.
   Men left their corn to be ground for feed at a mill or picked up sacks at the feed store, and tended to congregate in the courthouse, hardware store, or pool room. A haberdashery provided clothes for men and boys. Drug stores had a fountain for ice cream delights and sodas, sandwiches, magazines & newspapers, cosmetics, and coffee besides medicines.
   The star of the town was the movie theater.
Art Deco Star Theater, Russell Springs, KY
Saturday was double-feature day of westerns, cartoons, and news reels. If children under twelve could manage to get to the show before one o'clock the cost was a dime, with fifteen cents left from a treasured quarter for treats. No one complained if you sat through the showing twice except your parents if you were late for supper.
   One of the most unique small town movie houses was in Dixon, KY long before drive-in theaters. Each spring a man would paint the outside wall of his service station a fresh white. During the spring, summer, and fall on good weather Saturday nights he would use the wall as a movie screen. Patrons would bring their own treats, chairs, and cushions to watch a motion picture show.
   When friends from my home town get together to travel memory lane this story always comes up. The stores stayed open until eight o'clock. For a short period of time the only television in town sat in the window of the furniture store. It had a screen about eight inches square. On Saturday night people would gather on the sidewalk outside and watch a show on this strange new luxury. I don't remember what it cost, if I ever knew, but everyone was sure it was beyond their price range. After the program people would go next door to the drug store for a soda or a hand-dipped ice cream cone before going home.

   I've talked about the delights of going to town on Saturday, but there is a hidden picture behind the story. Each community had the stores I've mentioned and they provided jobs, substance for the owner, and taxes to the government. Those shops and businesses made the town. When they began to die and disappear from the scene a way of life for many Americans also vanished. Some communities are making an effort to bring back these institutions to attract tourists, but I expect it's mostly for their own benefit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Barbara Appleby - Author - home

Barbara Appleby - Author - home does the cartoons for our ads, newspaper column, and blogs. She designed our perfect logo for If Publishing, our publishing company.

Friday, August 12, 2016


 Two head coverings that protected our parents and grandparents from the sun were sunbonnets for the ladies and a broad brimmed straw hat for the men. I can't say much for the sunbonnet as they were hot whatever material (cotton mostly) they were made of and I hate to tie something under my chin. It chokes me.
   Men went through several stages of head gear during the 20th century, old felt hats, straw hats, then for many years most men worked outside wearing some form of a baseball cap. Their faces were heavily tanned below the cap and their forehead was much lighter. Few may realize it, but Blacks also tan though nature has given them some natural protection from the sun. Now I noticed that it's a brimmed hat with mesh sides in a kind of Indian Jones style or a British Driving cap much like the newsboy cap.
   The lighter a hat is in color the more comfortable they are to wear because the sun is reflected off light colors and absorbed by dark colors. A simple experiment proves this: take a white sheet of construction paper and a black sheet putting a small thermometer under each and place them in the sun. Examine them about ten minutes later and you will find the thermometer under the black sheet is about ten degrees higher than the one under the white sheet.
   One style that remains the same over the years is the "fisherman's hat" with a wide band for hooking flies and other small implements within easy reach. No spouse will even think of washing or getting rid of that sweat stained smelly item of fishing equipment.
   Fashions come and go, woman got smart and adopted men's head gear. It's nice to imagine a woman grabbing her mate's straw hat and going out to hoe the garden and discovering how much cooler wearing the hat was than her close fitting sun bonnet. If it had a few holes in the sides, so much the better because they allowed air to circulate over her head,

   I have several straw hats hanging around to pick up and wear when I'm going to be out in the sun. I keep one on the backseat of the Jeep for wearing when I take my morning walk around the gym to keep the glare out of my eyes and off my neck.   One has  a droopy brim where I've sprayed it with Off to keep mosquitoes at bay. It's the first thing I do when I step off the back porch. When I'm working outside I fold one of Nash's colored handkerchiefs and tie it around my head to keep the sweat from running down into my eyes. For me this works better than a sweat band, which gives me a headache.
   A sunny day on the lake and everyone is packing to go home after a great weekend taking with them a bright rosy skin. I can see little indication that anyone was wearing a hat. All the chemical protection ever produced will not completely protect someone from the sun itself or the reflection of the sun off the water. One needs a bit of shade protection. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Grinding Away

Bread is the staff of life or at least an important element of meals be it crackers, biscuits, cornbread, johnny cake, fritters, flatbread, dumplings, shells or sliced - take your pick. We have both leavened and unleavened depending on the availability of an agent or according to fashion, custom, or ethnic cooking. The major ingredient of our daily bread is some type of meal or flour.
   An old way of referring to a person who was a heavy eater was to call him a "trencher." This term originated in the Middle Ages when few bowls existed - hard crusted bread was hollowed out and filled with stew. These then served as bowls or trenchers. The stew was speared with a knife, juices soaked into the bread and was eaten last to finish the meal. Everyone carried their own knife to capture chunks of meat and vegetables; forks and spoons did not come into existence until the time of Elizabeth I of England.
   Available seeds, nuts, and grains were ground into coarse meal by early peoples by hand, then mixed with water until a ball formed that could be shaped. It was then baked in or near an open fire, on a water soaked slab of bark, or on a heated flat stone.
   Grinding was done by hand. I have a palm size stone I picked up in a museum gift shop. It was in with some rocks, but when I lifted it from from the box it fit my hand perfectly with a small place for my thumb. Worn smooth by time and use I was holding a very crude, but efficient grinding stone whose owner was right handed.
   How it came to be unidentified and pitched into a box for sale I don't know, but I purchased it. It sits on a shelf above my desk, the single Clovis people's artifact I own. From time to time I pick it up and wonder about the life of someone who spent hours grinding dried seeds, nut meats, or acorns into meal for making bread.
   Milling may have been the first step our ancestors took toward industrialization when people move from a gathering to an agrarian society. Early mills were two heavy disk shaped stones. The harvested grains were placed between them. They were powered by animals or humans who walked in a circle (round & round) to grind seeds into rough powder. The entrance drive into Levi Jackson State Park in Kentucky is lined with early mill stones.
   Much later people learned to use the force of falling water to turn waterwheels which moved wooden gears to lift and lower the stones. Every hamlet had a milling establishment as "shanks mare" (walking) was the major mode of travel. When a stream wasn't deep enough or have a constant flow of water to turn the wheel small dams were built across the stream. Today across the country you can find remnants of these early dams along the banks or across a stream though the mill house is long gone: a victim of the ravages of time and weather.
   Some have been restored as a working mills and are tourist attractions. A few never went out of business when flour and corn meal for human consumption became readily available in grocery stores and presently enjoy a thriving sales to a new generation who search for natural foods.
   Many survived as feed mills for a while, where farmers who grew their own corn for winter feed took their produce to be ground for their chickens and other livestock. We took our corn to Southern States to be milled for this purpose so by the 1970s and 80s even the feed mills were disappearing to the larger more efficient concerns powered by electricity.
   The photo above is of a mill house in Tennessee off Highway 127 near the home of Sgt. York. The dark across the bottom is the dam to operate the pump under the structure. Winter light gives the photo the aspect of a painting, but it was taken with an early digital Sony that uses a hard floppy disk.