Interest in gardening began very early although the soil around the buildings was nothing but red clay. A large donation of rose bushes came from the nurseries in Greensboro, the gift of Miss Linnie, as the girls at first cottage called Miss Ward. We learned that red clay was good for roses-surely we had that and as a good supply of plants was received, all of us, children and teachers began setting out rose bushes, a hard task in that sun-baked clay. Encouraged by this venture, spare time was occupied in preparing soil for more plants. Between the first and second girls' cottages we came upon a bed of brickbats where there had evidently been a brick yard at one time. "Oh, the `bats' dug up and carted away were 'sumpin' " as the small boy would say, but after a few years of frantic digging, as time permitted, we grew a garden. The good soil begged from the farm was not forthcoming. Economy l None to spare was the word. A running rose had been planted near the bay window at one cottage. It grew rapidly sending out long branches, one of which found its way through a loose window sash at the top and began to grow inside the room. No special notice was taken of it until one cold Christmas morning a year or two later I raised the shade fearing the branch had frozen. Behold! a lovely pink rose just opened on the branch. Cuttings and roots from some of these roses were still growing on the grounds when I left Oxford.
Whenever a parent or relative desired a visit from the children they were allowed to go if the home lodge approved and fund- were sent. July and August were the visiting months. As only two trains a day were scheduled in these early days, children living at a distance could reach home in one day only by taking the early train due at three A.M. when on time, but often came an hour or two late. However, we never could learn when it was to be late so the children sometimes thirty or more must be at the station in time. Trunks, suitcases and bags were packed and sent to be checked the afternoon before and tickets purchased. Lunches were packed as almost all had to change trains at Durham. Goodbyes were said to intimate friends left behind. One girl was heard addressing the bath tub at her cottage, "Goodbye, bath tub, I shan't see you again for two months."
Excitement ran high and probably a few had only a wink of sleep. Sometimes we walked to the station, at other times the farmer had a big hay wagon ready to take us. "Be careful of your ticket envelope and spare change." "Don't leave your lunch box on the train."
However, we were told that child-like, they often ate their lunches before they reached Durham. At last the train came and they were off to be met in Durham and put on the right train. Surprising as it seems in all the years visits occurred, there was no accident and no child got lost.
At that time the idea seemed to prevail, with a few, that orphan children did not need more than a common school education because they would probably never use more. It was some time before this idea was discarded. When hearing such remarks I always said, "Orphan children need more education than those who have fathers and mothers to assist them." Then and there I decided to give the children all the education they could take and let the subject work itself out. Soon summer visits of the children brought reports from the homes in praise of the training and improvement noted in the children, also of the bettered condition of the orphanage life.
Before I left the orphanage thirty years later our high school had been on the accredited list of high and secondary schools of the Southern association for three or four years with rank of B instead of A only because of our having less number of pupils than city schools. A new school building had been erected in the meantime equipped with all modern conveniences, including science laboratories and manual arts rooms. Many of our former children were teaching in the state-fine, sensible young women. But leading up to this state of affairs were years of of fort and work for us all and plenty of mistakes before we learned all the ins and outs of the place.
Very early in our "career" we came upon the subject of spending the few pennies the younger children had earned or had been given them from time to time. Each wanted candy. A penny fairly burned a child's fingers until spent causing many to slip down street at all hours leaving the teacher or cottage mother at a loss as to the child's whereabouts. At this time a worker taught in the school one-half day besides having the care of a cottage for the rest of the twenty-four hours. Talking the matter over we decided that a boy from the office would do the errands if children would leave their orders with us. For a time this answered but it soon became evident that the young purchasing agent was walking up and down the street most of his time.
Then Colonel Hicks decided we must have fresh candy somewhere on the grounds where children could purchase their own supplies. Parcels passed from hand to hand were unsanitary and the present method took too much time which could be employed to better advantage in other directions. Supplies could be purchased from a wholesale house and sell for less money than the children were now paying, besides they could be taught to buy and pay for their own candy. The venture must be self-supporting. Candy could be sold much cheaper than at the stores yet a small percentage should be made as in all business. The children must understand that not a cent was to go to the orphanage ; all the profits were to go back to the children as re freshments at their parties or in some form that all should decide.
The place finally decided upon was a corner in the Lady Supervisor's office in main building where a large receptacle was placed with a counter and tiny cupboards underneath. Now for a name! What should the place be called?
"Well, it really is a candy corner, isn't it?" I remarked.
"Yes," said Colonel Hicks, "and that's what it must be-Candy Corner." So Candy Corner came into existence and immediately became popular. Older girls were selected to take charge with instructions not to advertise business or urge sales, but to wait on all customers courteously and help any little ones if necessary.
The children soon learned to ask for what they wanted and to pay for their purchases. It was interesting to watch the little ones scanning the shelves trying to decide what to buy-such a momentous question to them. We tried to have what the children wanted and to sell as cheap as possible to prevent any trips down street. Brown sugar was a best seller for sometime. The institution bought it by the barrel and allowed Candy Corner to have it at a discount. The girls weighed out a nickel's worth and sold it in tiny paper sacks. Stick candy with spirals of pink, red and yellow were so attractive to the little ones and were in demand for years.
The older girls wanted spools of cotton for crocheting and tatting, so these articles were added to the "Corner."
Certain kinds of sweets were called for in waves as allday suckers and lollypops have had their day in recent years.
At another time potted ham and crackers were in great demand by the boys to take to the woods for a lunch on Saturday afternoons. One day the girls sold a can of "potted cham" as called for, and then told the boy how to pronounce the name.
Children learned to subtract to know if right change was received and to multiply - in fact, they learned to shop on a small scale as at a city store and to enjoy doing it. Gradually Candy Corner had to be enlarged. The cash drawer was carefully guarded by the girls in charge, who collected the change every Saturday afternoon to deposit in the vault at the main office, but sometimes a nickel or two was missed. Talking it over together we decided that each child would have to account for his own sins sooner or later and to remember that "Honesty was the best policy." This virtue was stressed with all others at cottage and chapel talks.
With the rush of work one Saturday night the girls and I forgot to collect the money to deposit in the vault. In the morning three five dollar bills were missing. Colonel Hicks asked about it at chapel service as he reported the loss to the children. No one confessed and we knew that nearly all were innocent. In a few days a director who lived in Oxford came to the superintendent and insisted on supplying the missing money as he, "could not bear to think of the little folks losing that amount." Reluctantly taking the money we kept in mind the loss. A year' or two later the money was sent back, by a boy who had left to go to his mother, acknowledging the theft and glad to make amends. We were glad to hear from the boy and to return the money to Mr. Currin who had given it so kindly and thoughtfully.
Candy Corner grew year by year. Salesmen from wholesale houses came with samples, so we kept up with the new "makes."
Office girls called in to examine samples and pass on new "buys" would say, "Don't take cocoanut filling, children won't like it." "Yes, they like this and this," pointing out certain kinds they recognized at once as being salable. "We could use ten boxes of that." One thing we insisted on---"no gum." "How could we stand it to see two hundred and seventy-five children chewing all the time," we asked. "Well, it would be awful wouldn't it," was the reply.
As shipments arrived they were checked and bills were consulted to make prices as low as possible to make our small profits. The superintendent was sometimes consulted as to scale of prices.
Small lamps on brackets were used in basement rooms and one large hanging lamp in the study room of each cottage. These were a constant source of anxiety at night. The study lamps became so hot I was afraid of a fire if one were left burning all night. Often in the middle of the night I have gone around to wake the cottage mother when I saw one burning. Although the grounds were pitch dark, it was easier to go out than to sit up and watch.
Sometimes grate fires were left red hot. This also caused trips out at night as I could see the glow from my windows.
"Four B on fire! " shouted the boys, one cold winter day. Snow was in drifts on walks and campus. Water was frozen in the small tank near the kitchen. Boys and men fought the fire with buckets of snow, ice was cracked on top of tank and pails of water were handed down to be carried across the campus to four B.
"I am going down," I said. Halfway I encountered a drift too deep for me to wade through, accustomed as I had been to snow drifts.
"Well, I never saw you turn back before," said an onlooker. As the fire started in the flue of the chimney, the men told the matron she must have been trying to warm up the house for the boys.
Four new arrivals; two girls and two boys all of one family came one morning and took seats on the long bench in front of main building between the big oaks. Disconsolate, vindictive looking, ready to fly at the first opportunity, they watched every move of those near them. Finally they were persuaded to come into the office. The girls were twins, two frightened little creatures, eyes turning in every direction looking fearfully around them.
"Where did you come from?" we asked.
"What town was it?"
"Well, where did you take the train?"
"Let's go to the cottage and see some little girls."
They hardly dared to eat, always watching for danger. Did not dare to go to the dormitory at night, never had slept upstairs.
The teacher repeated the prayer sentence by sentence, one repeating and the other casting eyes fearfully over their shoulder to be sure nothing would happen. The teacher slipped into the room several times during the night and found them fast asleep.
Questioning them in the morning as to how they slept they said, "Didn't sleep nary a wink."
The older brothers left soon determined not to be under restraint.
They had evidently roamed the woods around their home too long to live under any restraint and go to school.
But the girls, how fast they developed ! From the frightened little tots they grew to be fine looking girls as much alike as "two peas in a pod."
"Which are you, Matilda or Marilda?" we would ask. Finally one developed a dimple which helped us out.
Several years later when the twins went on a trip with the singing class they passed through the mountains and visited their former home. Two tall, fine looking young ladies with dark hair, brown eyes and smiling faces standing at the door of the little mountain home had to tell their names before mother Malinda recognized her daughters. The twins took a hospital training course and later married. They have fine homes now and Marilda, or was it Matilda, has been interested in church and community work, showing decided executive ability.
This is the story of two from the orphanage, and there are scores of others living, quiet, earnest, industrious lives in North Carolina and other states.
One living in Tennessee writes me of her home farm. "If I had you here I would soon get you well.", "My husband is a lawyer in town and leaves the care of the farm to me." "I enjoy taking my dog and tramping over the fields to see if the work is being done right."
This girl after graduating went to Normal School and later before her marriage took a position as advance agent for Chautauqua meetings.
Colonel Hicks was a genial lovable man. The Orphanage children were always the first consideration with him. What was best for them was always the question to be considered by us all, and all through my life at the institution that thought was uppermost in our minds. He never punished a child himself. He delegated a trusty member of the faculty to inflict whatever punishment was necessary. Often a good sensible talk-stories drawn from his own life was all that was needed.
"Yes," he would say, "boys need a brushing now and then, it makes them think," and smilingly he would add, "I had to have some when your age and it made me strong." Invariably they left the office with, "Thank you, Colonel Hicks."
It was a sad morning when word went around that the beloved superintendent was no more. Many boys and girls out in the world love and revere his memory.
Colonel and Mrs. Hicks celebrated their golden wedding the last few years of. their stay. Their youngest daughter was married in the chapel the same week. These were gala occasions in which all took part.
Mrs. Hicks, a low-voiced sweet little woman, was beloved by all. Often she sent for me to sample the scuppernong wine sent to her from what she called the Wyatt farm near Raleigh. It tasted like a delicious syrup and was used in old-time cooking. Syllabub was a favorite dessert with her, flavored with this same syrup. At a dinner one time the secretary praised the flavoring. Since he was a strict prohibitionist the remark amused us, but we never revealed the kind of flavor, fearing to arouse his conscience.
Years later Mr. Brown's daughter was married in the chapel, too, with equally as great enthusiasm. All the children enjoyed the excitement and great preparations for these occasions.
Children received from homes where law and order were never observed would cause more trouble and do more harm than we could undo in years. Bad habits spread faster than good. We had to accept all children sent to us from whatever homes they were taken. We were expected to make over the worst cases into bright, intelligent pupils in a short space of time. Such changes do not move rapidly. Some did not want to go to school and were belligerent.
One small boy said to his cottage mother when she was telling him about some bit of work, "I'll bust you wide open." The mother thought, well, the poor child has not heard anything but threats, so she let the remark pass. As she moved to another room, she heard an older boy say to the offender, "Say, she don't take any sarse."
The gang spirit prevailed at one time, due to several of these undesirables. The basement kitchen was rifled, lights flashed at night. Every boy was mum. When the detective arrived to find the leader, his pompous attitude on the campus easily identified him, so the detective disappeared and our dairyman took his place, Borrowing one of my keys, a few days later, he
slipped into my office while the boys were practicing basket-ball in Masonic Hall and waited behind a curtain. Soon the porch door opened and two boys came in, advancing to Candy Corner, saying, "No one here." Then seeing a shoe protruding from the curtain they ran, but the voice had registered. He was sent home to his mother, stoutly denying knowledge of the plot until the last moment. Later he confessed and we were glad to learn in a few years that he made good and was doing well.
One Sunday at Baraca class I said, "Boys, don't you think if you honestly tried you could find those boys who are giving so much trouble?"
"But we would be telling tales on the boys," (a belief that prevailed everywhere).
"Yes, but you might be saving them from more wrongdoing and perhaps a prison sentence in the future. You had better think it over carefully."
After class was dismissed, Robert came rushing back. "Get Wade, he knows the whole story."
On being told, Mr. Brown, the superintendent said, "I prayed this morning that the plot would be cleared up."
None of our largest, most trustworthy boys were implicated, but eight or ten of them were called to the office to talk over punishment for the offenders. They gave their opinions as each name was called: "You can't do anything with him, Mr. Brown, he ought to be sent away." "He had better go," and so on down the list. Several had to leave to go home to relatives, all but one boy who had been exceedingly troublesome. His only relative, an uncle, sternly refused to take or have anything to do with him.
"What shall I do?" said Mr. Brown. "I can't turn him loose in the world."
Then again he called the boys in and explained this particular case.
"Mr. Brown, he should go; he is doing so much harm to the other boys."
Mr. Brown finally said, "Isn't there some one of you who will be the guarantor for his good behavior and let him stay?"
There was silence for some time, then one boy spoke up, "I will, Mr. Brown."
This offer quite melted the offender, as the superintendent explained to him that he could stay. He became a changed boy and a year or two later was given a good position in a neighboring city, where he is a respected citizen of the community. When he visits the orphanage he seems to appreciate the home which gave him a fresh start and always leaves a donation at the office.
Another incident recalled is of a boy reported for stealing peanuts. Although Mr. Brown had absolute proof that he was guilty, still the boy hotly denied it and was punished as much for lying as for the theft.
Mr. Brown finally said, "Son, if I have punished you wrongfully I apologize." As he patted the boy's head, out dropped peanuts from under his cap. I did not hear whether Mr. Brown punished him further, but I think not. A long, quiet talk on falsehood would be more like him.
"Connelly, don't you think you could help us with those boys who are starting on the wrong track at the cottage?"
Thinking with such an innocent expression on his face, he remarked in boy language, "I might could."
A year or two later we learned accidentally that Connelly was the prime mover in that trouble which had cleared up so soon. It evidently helped him to find out that we trusted in his efforts to help. We never told him what we had learned.
A peculiar yell in the early morning from across the campus indicated snow. Sure enough it was snowing. Soon the squeals of delight from the girls as they ran to the dining rooms mingled with the shouts of the boys as all hurried to prayers which were held in the dining rooms just before breakfast in winter.
Sleds appeared from the most unexpected places, they multiplied like mushrooms. Even an inch of snow was wonderful and their delight knew no bounds when occasionally we had ten or twelve inches.
While watching the snowballing one day, I recalled my early years of fun. Going out, I said, "You children don't know how to snowball." "Let's play." "Half of you go to one side and I'll stay here with the rest." "Now throw the balls." "We are not going to run back of buildings or behind trees when a ball comes flying over; we may dodge it but we don't run." "You do the same."
We then had a lively game for ten minutes or more. The boys were careful not to throw snowballs at members of the faculty on their way to dinner or supper. They knew fairly well with whom to play. If a worker complained of being snowballed we thought it was to settle a particular grudge and let it pass quietly, considering the ball had settled the supposed injustice.
Icy days the children were most considerate of helping all the ladies back and forth to cottages. To offers of help I said, "No, I don't need help, I was brought up on ice." But they frequently watched my every step.
The mills at Scotland Neck sent bales of tablecloth goods, cotton of course, and right from the looms. We had tablecloths made to replace the old oilcloth. This added much extra work for the laundry but was appreciated by the children who did the extra work cheerfully. What should we have done without our deep well? With tablecloths on a bare hardwood table we needed silence cloths to avoid noise. Here was a chance to use our quantities of outing flannel. The mills were most generous in their donations. We found many uses for the goods but the supply never gave out, there was more and more coming, the shelves were never empty.
Pieces of plank, hammers and nails were often missing from the woodshed near rabbit hunting time. Did you ever make a rabbit "gum"? If so, you will understand that the missing articles were in constant use and many an Uncle Wiggly out for an adventure was caught. The boy who owned the "gum" claimed his prize. The boys sold some of their rabbits and others were prepared and taken to the kitchen where an obliging matron had them cooked and placed at the boys' plates for dinner. Boys often treated their special girl friend to a dainty dish of stewed rabbit.
With the change of seasons there were many opportunities for the children to earn "spend" money. In the spring the woods and fields were full of blackberries to be had for the picking. The kitchen could use any quantity. Colonel Hicks and the boys agreed on a price per quart and at dawn each morning they were out with buckets and cans. At the rising bell, 6 A. M., they returned with quantities of the luscious berries which the matron measured and recorded for each boy. As we were going to breakfast one morning, she said, "I have done nothing since 5 A. M. but measure berries, the cooks have had to get all the breakfast." Seeing the big pans piled high with blackberries, we knew that all would have to be disposed of quickly, as more would be coming in during the day. Those not consumed in the dining room would have to be made into jam or jelly or canned as fruit. They must also be ready for the next day's supply as the season lasted only a week or two. Often berries would be cooking late at night as the girls and matron stood over hot fires. Then, too, dinners and suppers had to be served no matter how many berries were cooked.
When the acorns began to fall in the autumn another pay season was on. This time the girls could share. Acorns were used on the farm for pigs, so when a price per basket full was settled, the campus and groves were alive with boys and girls hard at work stopping only for school, department hours, meal time and the dark. Many varieties were scattered over the campus, said to to be the most beautiful in North Carolina. At the North side near the treasurer's home, one immense tree grew with quite a different leaf and a flat acorn. 'He told us it was called "Turkey Oak" for in times past the wild turkeys used to feed on the acorns.
Buckets, toy wagons and all kinds of containers full of acorns were taken to the dairyman or baker to be measured and names recorded. It was an interesting time. Payday came at the end of each season and many happy boys and girls could be seen walking to the office for their pay.
Each succeeding year the participants grew in number as they realized the pleasure and benefits derived from having a little spending money. Cautioned about wise spending, some opened bank accounts.
One year the boys earned five hundred dollars on blackberries - too much to be paid out at one time for boys to have around the grounds, so Mr. Brown insisted that each boy deposit part of his amount in the bank. Books were kept at the office and could be seen when desired. This system was begun during Colonel Hicks' administration and the same rules and prices were continued when Mr. Brown took charge.
What money-making venture followed the acorn crop?
Can you guess?
Yes, leaves were falling thick and fast; they were wanted at the barns and the farmers were too busy to gather them. Here, too, was a chance for the girls. It was nearing Christmas and spending money was wanted. The farmers delivered heavy manilla sacks to each cottage for all who wanted to gather leaves and fill the sacks. These schemes were the only way certain children who had no home relatives to send them coins had to earn their Christmas money, therefore many older children joined the group. When filled the bags were placed in rows in front of cottages across the drive. Then the cottage mothers walked about counting the well filled bags and crediting each child with the correct number. A somewhat difficult task, as one child would say, "Sam is in with me," or "Mary and Sara are in with me," or "Miss Hamilton, some of my bags are missing. I had twelve bags and only nine are here." Bags of leaves were hard to identify, but woe to the offender if caught. The boys resorted to posting sentinels at last, if the trucks came while supper was being served. Toward the end of the season the farmers took their crowds of boys and swept through the grounds taking all that was left, and "Leaf time" was over.
Black walnut trees were plentiful and as the season of nuts drew near woods were scoured and sacks full of nuts were brought to the cottages on the backs of boys whose shirtwaists developed the most beautiful brown color from too much contact with the walnuts. It would have been well if the entire waist had been given an even color, but no, large streaks or spots made the boys look like circus performers and when shelling time came the picture was complete. Campus and porch roofs were covered with patches of nuts spread out to dry, zealously guarded. No pilfering was allowed and if it happened summary punishment was inflicted by the owners. Often stained hands betrayed the culprit for nothing could wash off the stain. When ripe the nuts were sold by the hundred, but many were sent to the girls by generous donors. In late years the girls had invitations to neighboring fields to help gather hickory nuts and they joyously accepted.
The boys had acres of pasture and woodland to wander over. They knew every tree and shrub for miles around. Catching squirrels was one pastime that called for some ingenuity, but trust a boy to be equal to emergencies. The trees with squirrel nests were located, but how to get them out of the trees was a question which the boys solved in a rather unique way.
For some time stockings were missing from the laundry. On bathing days someone would call out, "Only one of my stockings is in with my bundle of clothes."
"My stockings are both gone."
"Mine were discarded and none supplied."
No one had any knowledge of the articles and no amount of questioning between laundry and sewing room matrons with the cottage mother elicited the desired information. Sometimes stockings disappeared altogether and sometimes they were found torn. Finally we discovered the method of catching squirrels. One boy climbed the tree to the nest with a stocking to fasten over the hole. When all was ready the boy on the ground started drumming and beating the tree trunk and out popped the squirrel, to investigate the extra commotion, right into the stocking which would be quickly caught by the boy above. After this discovery it was not so easy to catch them, but the season was about over for the year.
The basements and back porches were often cluttered with boxes of tiny squirrels, for the boys always captured the little ones, after the mother was caught, and fed them with medicine droppers. These squirrels became so tame they would follow the boys around.
Before this we had tried to have the grey squirrels stay on the campus, even fixed an old well house for them, but always they would be missing by morning. Now the boys had accomplished what we older ones had tried to do.
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