The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Memories Of My Childhood

By Alice Vest Ayers © 1991

Issue: October, 1991

When my brother Floyd and I were growing up on Black's Creek, we attended a one room school house. One teacher had to teach all seven grades. We lived about a mile from school and there was always a lot of children walking home in the evening. Sometimes some of the girls and boys would get in a fight coming up the road.

We would go to the Advent Christian Church on Sunday morning and the Methodist Church in the afternoon. The people that were well off enough to have a car rode to church, but the ones that didn't have a car walked. The road would be full of children walking. We had about two miles to walk, but we children didn't mind. Sometimes we would take a short cut through the woods. We used to have ice cream suppers at the church. One night Floyd begged a neighbor man two hours for a nickel so he could buy some ice cream. He never did give him one. The neighbor might not have had a nickel himself. People didn't have much money in the depression days.

We used to have cake walks at the school house. One time I won a cake. At least I thought it was a cake. When I got home it was a round wooden box like cheese came in. A boy that lived down the road from us had decorated it all up with white icing and brought it to the cake walk. I know he got a big laugh from it by pulling a big trick like that on me.

Floyd was always getting hurt when he was little. He fell through the stable loft and hit his head on a rock. He broke his finger and another time he ran into a barb wire fence and cut his throat. We had a big tall pine tree near the house that had a swing on it and Floyd would swing to the top of the tree, away out high over a rock fence. Mother was always afraid the swing would break and he would get hurt. He was always a little dare devil.

There were two old men that lived near us and Floyd and I were afraid of them. One day when mother was gone they came to the house and Floyd and I ran out into the woods. When mother came home and we told her we ran away from them, she laughed and said, "They won't hurt you." But they looked scary to my brother and me.

Floyd worked one day for two old ladies and they gave him twenty-five cents. He went to the store and bought a piece of cheese and a soft drink. The storekeeper gave him some crackers, and that was his lunch that day. He worked all day for another neighbor picking beans just to get the man to cut his hair. One time Floyd was helping a neighbor in the hay field. They had loaded the hay on the truck and the man told Floyd to start the truck. He had never driven a truck before so he put it in reverse and threw the old man, hay and all, off on the ground. The old man said, "Why you sorry buzzard. Can't you do anything right?"

Brother Smokey never stayed at home much. He traveled about the country with his friends and walked wherever he could find work. My sister Joane left home when she was eleven years old. She stayed with a family in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia. She left there when she was about fifteen. She stayed at home awhile, then went to Washington, D.C. Sister Mabel was already married when our father died. She and her husband and son lived near Eagle Rock, Virginia. My two older brothers, William and Calvin Vest, finally met some girls and got married. They lived near us. Finally it was just mother, Floyd and me at home.

It was a lonely time for me growing up in the '20s and '30s. We had no TV or radio and there were no girls where we lived. I would sit on the porch and read or write poems. The best friend I had, my sister Joane was living in Washington, D.C. I missed her so much back in those days.

My grandfather would come to visit and sit and tell Floyd and me ghost stories until midnight. Then we would be afraid to go to bed. Mother always had a pan of yeast rolls made when he came because she knew he loved them.

I remember when I was about five years old walking up to my grandmother's house. She gave me some sugar cookies to eat. It was about one-half mile up the road.

One Halloween night, my sister Joane was going trick or treating with some neighbor children and I wanted to go too. The night before I had stepped on a fire coal from the fireplace and burned the bottom of my foot. I couldn't wear any shoes, so I went barefoot. My feet almost froze.

When Floyd would go anywhere at night, we would always know when he was coming home. He had a dark patch of woods to come through and he would sing as loud as he could. When brother Smokey would be coming home at night, he would be whistling. We could hear him away up the road coming home.

In the wintertime when my brothers were gone, mother and I would sit by the firelight and she would sing all the old songs she knew like, "Way Down Upon The Swanee River" and the "Old Folks At Home." She died in 1959. I still miss her and sometimes I can still hear her singing those old songs to me while I sat by the fire.