The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Remembering The Good Old Days

By Hobart Anderson © 1986

Issue: October, 1986

I was born July 19, 1915 and the second oldest of five children. We grew up in the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Patrick County Virginia and lived there through the Depression years of the 30's. As young boys and girls, we didn't know it was hard times, because we had plenty to eat.

In the summer we would pick blackberries to sell or swap for food items and in the fall we would dry apples to sell to buy our school clothes.

Of course we raised tobacco too, but in those days tobacco didn't bring very much. I have seen it sell for as little as 1 and 1/2 cents a pound. I have also seen a lot of tobacco just passed over by the buyers with no bid at all. Then the farmers would have to bring it back home and try to sell it at another time.

One year my Dad didn't get enough out of his crop to pay for his fertilizer. But even that didn't matter to us kids, because as I said we had plenty to eat and a good time. Besides, everyone we knew were in the same shape. We wore patches on our clothes, but that didn't bother us for most of the other kids did too.

Just about every boy would have a sling shot in his pocket. If you had a sling shot, a pocket knife and a few marbles you were in high class.

The girls would cut paper dolls out of the Sears Roebuck Catalog and they would make play houses and use them for people. We would also go swimming in the summer time and swing on grapevines out over the water. The girls didn't go swimming with us, because we didn't wear bathing suits. In fact, I never heard of bathing suits until I was almost grown.

In the winter months I would set rabbit gums. There were lots of rabbit back then. I would go check my traps each morning before going to school and most of the time I would have one or two and sometimes more. We would eat some of them. They were real good, but I liked to sell them best. I would get 10 cents for each at the store. It was a good feeling to have 5 or 10 cents in my pocket to buy candy with.

My sister and I had to do the churning. After the milking and straining the milk, we would take it to the spring. Then we would have to go back and bring some in for dinner. After dinner we would take what was left over back to the spring and the same was done for supper.

The spring box was made out of wood about 5ft. long with a hole in each end so the water would run through it. It had a heavy lid on top to keep anything from getting to the milk and the lid was raised up and also the lids were off the milk buckets and all of the cream was gone off the milk. We thought at first someone had come by and drank it, but we couldn't think of anyone who would do such a thing. The same thing kept happening over and over again, so Dad decided it might be a dog, but still couldn't figure out how a dog could lift a heavy lid and take the lids off the milk buckets. Anyway he set a steel trap by the spring one night. The next morning he went to the spring and there was a big shepherd dog caught in the trap. We never found out who the dog belonged to, but we never lost any more milk.

When I was old enough to start going with the girls, I would sometimes ride my father's horse, but most of the time I would walk. Walking back then was no problem. I didn't think anything of walking five or ten miles and sometimes more. I thought it was worth it to get to kiss a pretty girl.

My Dad and Mother had a one horse buggy they would use for Sunday driving, but after more kids came along, they bought a two horse surrey. It was a fancy rig with lights on the sides and fringes all around the top.

About two or three times a year we would go to Grandpa's. We would go early on Sundays and stay all day, getting home in time to do the milking and feeding the hogs and get in some wood. For us kids that was a real treat.

My Grandpa was Jake Overby. He operated a store and had share croppers on his place. I guess you would call him a wealthy man for that day and time. When we were getting ready to leave in the evening, he would always take us into the store for a treat. That is what we had waited for all day. He gave me the first bottle of pop that I ever drank and it was called "Green River." It was something like a 7UP. I will never forget it. I have never seen or heard of that brand of soft drink since.

It was always such a thrill to go to Grandpa's. In the summer he would make ice cream in the old hand-cranked freezer. That was the only time we ever got ice cream.

Once he carried us to the fair in Mt. Airy, North Carolina and let us ride the hobby horses. What a thrill that was. That was my first time to go to town.

In 1928 we got our first car, it was a 4 door touring car and I think it cost about $600.00

It was really something to own a car in those days. There were not very many cars then and most of them were Model T Fords.

Daddy never learned to drive so Mother did all the driving. I was about 15 or 16 years old before Mom and Dad would let me drive it, but when I finally did, after much begging and pleading, I could drive good enough to take it out by myself. I felt like the President of The United States. You didn't have to have a drivers license back then. I think it was in 1936, that I got my license. They cost 50¢.

In 1933 I went with my Dad to Mt. Airy, NC to sell tobacco. At Swanson's Motor Co., I saw this 1929 Model A Ford Roadster. I fell in love with that car. It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. It was black and green with wire spoke wheels and a tan, khaki top. It had two spare tires on the back with a tan tire cover to match the top and it had a rumble seat. The price of the car was $175.00 and I had to pay $75.00 down. I was so proud of that car. I don't believe a boy today would be thrilled as much as I was if he had a Rolls Royce.

I never had any trouble getting dates with my car. Sometimes I would have 2 in the front with me and 2 in the rumble seat and 1 on each side, standing on the fenders.

My Dad was a good man. Of course he had to work hard, everyone did to raise a family and keep the taxes paid. He loved to read the Bible and sing. Amazing Grace was one of his favorite songs. He had a loud, clear voice and early in the morning when he would start out to the fields to work he would start singing and you could hear his voice echo for miles around. Dad has been long gone now, but I can still hear his voice ringing loud and clear as it echoed back across the hills of Patrick County, Virginia.