(by Thelma Credle Fulford)
There's not anything so different about my life, but it is my life, and I do not really want to relive it. I often think back in my mind, though, and recall things that come on the scene, so my mind tells me to write it down.
I was always glad, as I remember, to have the family I had--Mamma, Daddy, Grandma and Granddaddy, Uncle Charlie, and Uncle Sidney were my world--all in one household on Rose Bay. Who could ask for more? We all lived in the same house until I was four years old.
I guess that I was spoiled, but it was grand. My Uncle Charlie bought me a tricycle when I was about three and taught me how to pedal it it. I rode it off the porch and got hurt, so my folks had a concrete walk made in the front yard so I could ride my tricycle on it and not get hurt. That was really "big stuff," 'cause nobody else had a concrete walk in their yard.
When I got old enough to choose for myself, Granddaddy was my most favorite person. Where Granddaddy went, I went. When he would leave the house for the day in his combination store and blacksmith shop, if I didn't go along, there was always trouble. So most of the time, I went to work with Granddaddy.
My most favorite thing was to pump the forge in the blacksmith shop where Granddaddy heated the iron to make horse shoes and sharpen plow points and to make metal covers for different kinds of wheels used in that time.
There were a few cars, and we had a Ford truck and a Buick car, which had doors to open on all but Daddy's side. He had to step high to get behind the wheel. We didn't use it very much, for there was only mud most of the time since the roads were not paved, and cars would mire down often over their axles. And if you got the car out of one place, it would mire worse in another place than before. Often, if we started somewhere in our Buick, we would not get far before we would have to be pulled back home by "Buck" and "Ben," our team of oxen.
Since Hyde County soil was so deep whenever it rained or snowed, we never knew where bottom would be, so we stayed home or just visited in the "mile square" of our neighborhood.
Granddaddy's store was at the intersection of the highway where the movement in or out of our county was, and people had to pass either way. The store proved to be handy to everyone--not only as a store but as a convenient place to stop over and a gossip center. It was a great part of my childhood, and I was truly at home there in the store with my granddaddy.
I wanted to help my granddaddy wait on customers, but being all of about four years old, I got underfoot. I guess that he understood my intentions, though, for he made me a little girl-sized stool that I could move about. He put me in charge of the molasses barrel and the kerosene barrel.
People in our part of the world did not have money to spend at the store, but we took eggs, which were then worth five cents each, or chickens which were a dollar for a hen or small rooster, in trade. Any other than those things were charged in granddaddy's store books. A quart jar of molasses cost five eggs, and a half-gallon of kerosene for folks' lamps was three eggs. My pay for working with granddaddy was a bottled strawberry flavored drink now and then or cookies.
I started school when I was four years old, but after I got through each day, I still worked in the store. I soon learned to write down what folks needed to charge to the books, so I began to cover more and more for Granddaddy.
The people in our neighborhood farmed or fished for a living. They often owed us more than the whole year's work earned for them, but we were able to be there for them.
Captain Billy Spencer lived across the road from us and had some sailboats. He and a crew would sail to Belhaven or Washington every Sunday afternoon. They'd leave from our sawmill site, loaded with chickens, eggs, and whatever else we needed to be rid of to pay for whatever stock that we placed on our store shelves. Most of the time, they would get back to the sawmill landing either Wednesday evening or some time Thursday.
Whenever I think about the way that we live today and then think of life as it was back then, my mind just has to take a rest. It was so different from today. There was no actual need or hunger, for as a neighborhood, it was not tolerated. People knew everyone else and whenever--or whatever--need arose, they were aided, no matter what needed to be done. And that meant all people, black or white--from the first part of our mile to the end of the mile of our neighborhood.
We had blocks of ice that would come every week as part of the delivery from the boats. But the ice supply was not sufficient to allow meats to be sold in the store. We had a wonderful arrangement back then. So all who could, would kill a beef or hog and divide it with everyone else. They'd talk dates so all would know and be able to share when their time came around. The same rule applied to seafood. There was lots of it, so whenever the weather was good, the farming had to wait.
Someone would go fishing. If the catch was good, the folks would string large bunches of fish together and ask twenty-five cents. (Oh! those days!) If whoever the folks went to sell the fish to didn't have the money to pay for them, they still had fish to eat. And that was the way it was around the entire neighborhood.
The same applied to vegetable gardens and fields that had peas or beans on cornstalks in the fields. All divided. That was the way we all lived. Together. And I am so thankful for my part in it, for often whatever was to be divided was left at our store so whoever needed it could get it.
Our mothers were stay-at-home moms. They raised gardens for the family table and to divide if weather and crops allowed, and they looked after whatever and wherever they were needed.
All of the people who farmed and some of the ones who fished had flocks of chickens, which were God-sends. That was pocket money for the little needs that everyone in our community had.
My grandmama had a flock of seventy-five Plymouth Rock hens with five big roosters. Each year, she would set fifteen of the hens and get a new stock hatching. Each spring she would cull the old hens, then sell off about twenty-five or thirty of them to make room for the new crop of chickens. Woe be to the baby roosters! They were food - or if they got by Grandmama, they were usually sold to pay for whatever we bought from Sears and Roebuck or National Bellas Hess. The pullets were egg money.
How often I heard my granddaddy laughingly tell Grandmama that she made more money on him off the corn that she fed her chickens than he did from his entire crop of corn from the fields. Really, chickens furnished most of the cash on hand for the entire neighborhood constantly, than any other form of income that I can remember.
Things are so different now. I guess that a hen would be lost in a grassy yard and scared to death of a rooster. And if a hen had to sit on a clutch of eggs for three weeks, she'd die of arthritis!
How different it is.
Thelma Gladys Credle, born on October 30, 1912, is the daughter of Albert Cartwright and Sally Gibbs Credle. Albert and Sally lived with his parents, George Tilson and Martha Etta Mae Cartwright Credle, and their two sons, Charles and Sidney, Albert's brothers, at the Credle home on Rose Bay. "Granddaddy" was George Tilson Credle, while "Grandmama" was Martha Etta Mae Cartwright Credle. Thelma wrote this reminiscence from the time period that she was a toddler until she was about five or six years old. I have kept her story as nearly in her voice as possible, adding the most minimal of changes and making grammatical and editorial changes only where necessary. /s/ Florence Fulford Moore, daughter of Thelma Gladys Credle Fulford and Richard Berry Fulford
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