The Story of my Life
Louise Virginia (Weir) Frasier
|Home||Introduction||Preface||Chapters||Do You Remember?||Stuff||Contact|
n March 1936 we moved back to Tennessee. We rented a house for $4.00 a month but it was not empty yet, so we were staying with Papa and Mama again. On April 5th (there, I remembered the date!) a tornado struck. We were all in bed, but Mama woke me up and said let’s go out and see this cloud.
The lightening was terrible, but you couldn’t hear thunder. There was a terrible sound like a freight train. We ran back into the house and Mama yelled for everybody to get up and put their clothes on. But everybody was already up. Even Papa who was hard of hearing had heard and had his pants on.
Then the tornado hit! A tree fell on the house and half of the roof flew off. Elizabeth was yelling, “Thaniel, get in here and help me hold this kitchen door shut!” But, Daddy had picked up Virginia from where she was sleeping in the cradle and threw her on the bed with me and Dot and he was laying on top of all three of us.
Elizabeth was trying to hold the door shut (even though the roof was already gone!) and Mama was trying to get out the door to go see about Comer and Ola. Evelyn was trying to hold Mama back. I finally got up and helped Evelyn. We looked out and trees, chickens, trash, and everything was whirling around. Finally the wind stopped and the water came: feet and feet of water!
Comer and Ola came carrying Barbara and Doyle through the rain. They lived in a little old frame house and it didn’t get damaged a bit. Daddy and Comer were getting ready to go check on Buford’s family—Buford had a broken leg and they had three kids—but they came up just about that time. They were O.K. Lillian and Riley lived about two miles away and Daddy and Comer went to check on them. They had practically no house left. But no one was hurt.
After the tornado, everybody started building storm cellars and they spent a lot of time in them. I never went into a storm cellar: I have a horror of smothering. That’s the reason that I’m going to be cremated when I die, or at least one of the reasons.
The house we had rented was finally empty and we moved in. Daddy cut cord wood for seventy-five cents a cord. While we lived there, the neighbors had a gaggle of geese. There was one gander that everybody was afraid of: that is, everyone except Dot. She was just beginning to talk. She was out playing and that gander saw her and came charging at her with his wings spread out and making terrible honking sounds. Dot looked straight at him , pointed her finger and said, “You’d better quit that!” That ole gander just wilted down and walked away.
|Virginia Bell Frasier and her “Booms”|
Carrie Nell was born June 12, 1936. Mama stayed and took care of us. Dr. Griffin from Elora delivered her and the fee had gone to $10.00. Three babies, now! Virginia was not three yet and Dot was not two yet. I had a small rocker with arms and a cradle. I would get the milk ready to churn by having it warm and setting the churn on a newspaper. I would get a book, the rocker, and the cradle—put two kids in the cradle, breast feed the baby, hold the book with my left hand and the churn dasher in my right hand. I pushed the cradle with my right foot and the rocker with my left foot, churned the milk, read the book, and sang nursery rhymes (I knew the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme book by heart).
By the time the butter had collected on top of the milk, the babies were all asleep—generally about half an hour. Then I put the baby to bed and took the butter off the milk, worked it, salted it, set it in a cool place, poured up the butter milk, and washed the churn and dasher. No one drank much butter milk except Dot. We used it to make bread: Biscuits and cornbread.
Later when we had more kids, I would hold two kids on my lap and one on each arm of the chair and rock and sing nursery rhymes. Do you know how to put four sleeping kids to bed without dropping one or waking them up?
I could. Oh, yes! I hated to rock! Daddy was the rocker. And I always hated to read aloud: I preferred telling stories in my own words. When Dot was twelve, she started reading aloud to the younger kids. She loved to read aloud. What happened, Dot?
| Louise and
Dot, Carrie, and Virginia
We moved again and Daddy couldn’t find work. Finally he left and went to Mobile, Alabama and joined the Merchant Marines. He worked for one month, but when the ship left, he found that he couldn’t go, not knowing when he would be back. So he quit and came back to Tennessee to get us and we moved back to Alabama.
Daddy finally went to work for $1.00 a day and free rent on a house. That was in 1937. In the fall of 1937 we moved again and we both picked cotton for three months. We got one cent for each pound that we picked. We weighed the cotton together and we picked 800 pounds a day. I picked a lot more than him but as I said before, some people could pick more cotton than others. We would take the three girls and let them play in the shade where we could watch them. So those three babies picked cotton too!
Pa Frasier sold his farm in Marshall County and bought one in DeKalb County. He asked Daddy to help him farm it. There was only one house on the farm, but they would build another one for us to live in. We rode the bus to Flintville for Christmas and while we were gone, Pa Frasier moved and moved our things also.
Riley Jr., with Doyle
Peggy, Betty, Jack, Dot (in chair)
Billie, Joe, Dexter with Addie Bea
The trip home from Flintville was terrible. We rode the bus to Scottsboro, Alabama on January 2, 1938. It was late at night when we got to Scottsboro. It was raining, snowing and freezing. There were no buses going across the mountain, but we caught a ride in the back of a pick-up truck! -- with the babies in the rain and snow in the middle of the night.
When we got to Pa Frasier’s new house they had been there only a week. Paul had broken his leg and Grandpa, Lee, and Willene had the measles. Of-course, before long, the three babies had the measles, too! I was pregnant again and I was so sick that I thought that I’d die. I tried to hide how sick I was because everybody was having such a terrible time. I would never want even my worst enemy to live through two months like that.
On my Birthday, February 25, 1938 Daddy and Pa Frasier had a two-room house built. At least the roof, floor, and walls were up. It had no fire-place or flu for the stove yet, but we moved in. Daddy took the wagon and went to the country store owned by Joe Lister. Daddy told Mr. Lister, “You don’t know me, but my Dad bought the Chesser place. I have a wife and three babies and I need something for them to eat. I’m not working now, but I’m going to get work and I’ll pay you as soon as I can.”
Mr. Lister told him that he could get a job cutting wood for a cotton gin. It needed to be cut a year ahead of time so it would burn. So Daddy bought $30.00 worth of groceries (which would be about $1000 today).
Then Grandpa decided that he didn’t need Daddy to help him farm. Daddy cut cord wood for the cotton gin for awhile and than he got on with the W.P.A. program. W.P.A. was a work program which F. D. Roosevelt had instituted after he was elected president in 1932. The W.P.A. and the president’s other work programs were beginning to bring the country out of the depression and War was raging in Europe.
Hoyt Joseph was born in that little two room house August 13, 1938. Belle helped me that time. A lot of things happened when we lived there. We got our water from a spring.
Remember, I told you that even when Daddy was a boy, he thought that chickens would be a good business to be in (chickens and eggs). He counted his chickens before they were hatched! Or, in this case, counted his eggs before they were laid!
Daddy could tell you to the half cent what it would cost to buy a sexed chick; and to the ounce how much feed it would take for the chicks until the pullets started laying when they were around five months old. He figured that with 365 days a year that a hen would lay 280 eggs a year. The hens would be past their prime after three years, so you could sell them and already have replacements ready to start laying. After Daddy went to work for the W.P.A., he built a chicken house and we had a hundred laying hens.
One day Daddy had been in the woods and came to the house and asked me to leave the babies for a few minuets and go with him to pick possum grapes. You sure could make good jelly from possum grapes! At that time Virginia was five, Dot was four, Carrie was three, and Hoyt was one. Hoyt was sleeping and H.N. told the girls to be quite and don’t wake Hoyt, “we’d be back in a few minutes.” We took the wash tub and in just a few minutes we had a tub-full of possum grapes. When we got back to the house, the girls were sitting on the edge of the porch looking like angels. You could almost see the halos and wings.
Carrie said, “We shabed.” Her daddy said, “You what?”
“We shabed,” she repeated. I said, “What with?” and she said, “With Daddy’s razor. We put suds on our faces and shabed.”
That was a straight razor and it was so sharp that you could split a hair with it!
April 23, 1940 Thomas William (Bill, Tom) was born. That was also the day that Papa died. We still lived in the same little two-room house. Two babies born in the same house! Dr. Haggard delivered both Hoyt and Bill. The fee had gone up to $20.00 for a delivery. Bill started walking and talking when he was eight months old.
Comer, Lillian, Evelyn
Nora, Mama Weir (Ida), Dora
(That must be Mary Will hiding behind Elizabeth)
Daddy bought Hoyt a straw hat and toted him on his shoulders up to get the mail. The mail box was on the main road which went by Pa Frasier’s house. Daddy went into Grandpa’s house and left Hoyt outside. Ma Frasier had a peony that was five years old and had never bloomed. That year it had one bloom on it. Hoyt broke it off at the base of the bloom and brought it to me.
Carrie was three years old when she asked if “butterflies were made out of butter”. Dot went into the hen house, got a basket full of eggs and sat there breaking every one to see what was inside it. Virginia would stand by, watch, and tell the younger kids not to do those things, but she never tattled on them.
One morning the kids had just about run me crazy. I spatted the girls’ bottoms and told them that I was going to get the mail and they’d better sit down and be quite until I got back. Hoyt and Bill were “asleep”. Ha! I’d been gone about four minutes when I looked back and all five of the kids were sitting on the ridge of the house. Daddy had left the ladder leaning against the house. I went ahead and got the mail. Altogether, I was gone about twenty minutes. When I got back all five of the kids were on the bed “asleep”. Did I dream that? No!
We’ve walked many miles, Daddy carrying two kids and me carrying one with another one unborn. Talk about exercise! Walking! Aerobics! The very thought of doing those things for exercise makes me sick—or playing golf, stupid, stupid. I have carried one baby in each arm, one on by back and had two hanging on to my dress tail. I never carried a baby on my hip and never made the older kids carry the younger ones. I hate to see people tote a baby on a hip.
Daddy was still working on the W.P.A. By then, laborers were getting paid $32.00 a month, but Daddy was time keeper so he got paid $60.00 a month. We were rich! We bought our first car—a 1928 Chevrolet Coupe for $35.00. We also bought 20 acres of land adjacent to Pa Frasier’s land. We paid $200.00 for the 20 acres. And Virginia started school that year.
We built two hen houses on the new land and moved the chickens into the new houses. I went three times a day to take care of the chickens. Then we built a barn and we moved into it, and started building the house. There was still no electricity in those rural areas.
Then W.P.A. was over and World War II was in full swing in Europe. Daddy had paid $35.00 in 1935 to join the carpenter’s union. He paid dues of $2.00 an month. In 1940 he went to work at Oak Ridge in Knoxville, Tennessee. I stayed in the barn, picked the cotton that we’d planted, took care of 1000 laying hens, candled, graded, and crated eggs in 60 dozen crates. The feed man brought feed and picked up the eggs.
Dot started school and, a year later, Carrie started to school. Daddy still worked at Oak Ridge, but came home on week-ends. Every minute that he was home we worked on the house that we were building. We put hard wood floors down and I guess I’m glad that we never lived in that house for those hard wood floors were shiny as glass. The house cost $900.00 to build.
We had 1000 laying hens in houses and 1000 pullets in summer shelters—roofs, open sides, with roosts for chickens. We were still living in the barn.
Since Daddy was working away from home, he bought me a 410 shot gun to keep the chicken thieves away. One night I heard noises and went outside to find out what was going on. There were four men with two trucks parked by the summer shelters. They were reaching in and grabbing the pullets from the roosts and putting them in coops. I didn’t even think of the gun! I just told the dog, Shep, to come with me and I walked down to the trucks and asked the men what they were doing. They jumped into the trucks and left, taking 700 pullets with them!