Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Following Traditions for the New Year


J. Mark Lowe

Eating black-eyed peas and something green (cabbage or greens) on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck and financial prosperity to the one eating them throughout the rest of the year. My Mom insisted that we at least have a spoonful of peas. Other lucky foods are lentils, pork (because chickens scratch backwards, a cow stands still, but a pig roots forward.) and sauerkraut. In order to take this a step further, some place a silver coin over the doorway or a penny on the windowsill. I asked several of my friends what traditions their family or neighbors followed.

On New Year’s Day, it is good luck for a man to be the first person to enter your house, and bad luck for a woman to be first.  John Baker, Jr. remembers men in the community coming around from house-to-house on New Year’s Day in order to spread good luck. Several folks shared this similar superstition. Absolutely nothing should leave your house or home on New Year's Day, including you, until someone has crossed into your door. You may want to have a family member or friend visit you on New Year's Day to break the threshold of your doorway before you go anywhere on the first. The best luck would be a dark-haired tall man who came bearing gifts of a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, an evergreen sprig or some salt. Beware though, remember it should be a man, not a woman, and blondes and redheads are additional bad omens.  The story is told that on one occasion, a wife allowed a female friend to come into her house on the Day.  Her husband was extremely upset that his wife allowed the female friend to be the first to come into the house and bring bad luck.  This argument led to a separation and the couple never reconciled.

This historic postcard displays many traditional symbols of luck: leprechaun, four-leaf clovers, horseshoe, ringing bells, gold coins and a pig

There are many traditions about the people with whom you celebrate and activities you are doing both on New Year’s Eve and Day.  So depending on your beliefs, the person you were with to celebrate the new year last week is with whom you will spend the next year. There's long been a superstition that if you kiss your true love at midnight on New Year's Eve, you will live in love and happiness with that person for the entire rest of the upcoming year. Plus, whatever you were doing on January 1st is the task you will continue to do all year.  I’ve heard from many people that families have avoided have funerals on the 1st because of the superstition. There is one superstition about New Year's Day that if you lend someone money or something of substantial value on the first day of the New Year, you will be loaning money out to people all year long. You're also not supposed to pay off any loan on the first day of the New Year, either. If you cry on New Year's Day, for sad reasons, then you set the tone for a year's worth of sadness and tears. Whatever happens, you should be happy and upbeat all day on New Year's Day in order to ensure a happy year to follow.

Many folks opened the doors or windows of a home at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year escape.  We also make loud noises at the same time, so we scare away any evil spirits that might be tempted to come into the house. An Irish tradition involves banging on the door and walls with Christmas bread to chase the bad luck out and bring good spirits to the household with the promise of bread enough in the New Year.

Watch Night began with the Moravians, a small Christian group with roots in eastern Europe. The first such service was held in 1733 on the estate of Count von Zinzendorf in Hernhut, Germany. John Wesley, founder of a Methodist movement, incorporated the Watch Night vigil into the practices of the early Methodist church. These watch night were not only held on New Year’s Eve, but one a month and on full moons.  The first such service was held in the United States in 1770 in Philadelphia.

The end-of-year Watch Night of 1862 took on special significance and became known as Freedom Eve. On the 22nd of September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which stated, “On the first day of January… all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be, then, thenceforward, and forever free.” When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Among African-American congregations many have gathered in churches annually on New Year's Eve ever since, praising God for bringing them safely through another year and commemorating the significant date in history.
As I leave you to your resolutions, let me share the fate of Ten Little Resolutions taken from a 1910 Kentucky newspaper.  One little resolution keeping it a month is a chore, never mind, next New Years’ Day you can make at least ten more.

Sources: Mt. Sterling Advocate; Historic Traditions of Scotland and Ireland;

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Civil War Christmas - 1864


Let’s follow the diary of a young nurse, Elvira J. Powers, who served as a nurse in military hospitals in the Louisville area and Nashville. Here are her thoughts just prior to Christmas in 1864.

Friday, Dec. 9.

The first snow of the season. Winter has really come to the Ohio valley.

Much public excitement in Louisville. Men are being conscripted, and horses impressed. Several thousand soldiers have just been sent there, as they anticipate a cavalry raid from the rebels. Hood is threatening Nashville. He says he "… is ordered either to go into Nashville, or to " a certain very warm place. Our boys [Union soldiers] think he will get into the latter place first.


Yesterday was at work most of the day and evening on evergreen wreaths to trim the ward. Christmas is coming I have plenty of help from the ward-master, chief nurse and convalescents. How kind they all are. I receive nothing in my ward from the surgeon down, but the greatest respect and consideration.

Friday, Dec.16.


The first death in my ward, since my coming, occurred last night. It was that of Robert Burnett, of Kentucky. On Sunday morning, over a week since, I found him lying in bed and that he had not been out to breakfast, as he had done the two days previous, since entering the ward.


Upon conversing with him he told me he was going to die. I saw that he was excited and thought he was nervous and tried to quiet him. But he was sure, he said, that he should die, " he understood why I did not think so, and appreciated what I said, but he knew he was going to die, " and asked if I would stay by him whenever I could, and he begged for a promise that I would be by him and " watch his face when he died." These were his exact words, and though I did not think he was dangerous and told him so, yet he would not be pacified till I promised if he died at any hour when we were allowed in the ward, or if at any other, and he was conscious and would send for me, I would be with him. He was also concerned for the future, for he was not a Christian, he said. I read for him from the Bible, sang for him, and the chaplain's orderly came and prayed with him. He professed afterward to think himself prepared to die, and he gradually grew worse each day until he died. I remained with him until late last evening, but he was unconscious else I should have remained until his death. He died about twelve. I had written to his wife the first day, but the mails are interrupted by guerillas. He has two brother-in-laws here, who have started home with his body. At the funeral service we sang the appropriate hymn,


" Oh! watch my dying face,

When I am called to die."


[Note: Robert Burnett was the son of David and Elizabeth Cole Burnett of Hardin County, Kentucky. He enlisted in Company d, 21st Kentucky Infantry USA. He was married to Electa Ann Smallwood in 1857 and they had children.  The records indicate he died of a fever. He was buried in the New Albany National Cemetery in Indiana.]


The University of Nashville served as a Hospital during the Civil War

Robert Burnett's Civil War Pension Card
The Compiled Military Service Record of Robert Burnett. This indicated he died of fever in the hospital.

Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Transfers and furloughs are the order of the day. Some twenty-five hundred have been transferred from Nashville to this hospital, this month. From fifty to two, three or four hundred are transferred from here at one time, to hospitals farther north. As we hear that those are pretty well filled, it seems just the time to give as many sick furloughs as possible, thus clearing the hospitals for those unable to go home.



Saturday, Dec. 24.

The second death in the ward. It was that of a young, noble-looking man—Prevo, of the 40th Indiana. He died of a gunshot wound, the ball entering the lungs. He was battling with the grim monster all day yesterday, and thought himself at one time on a forced march through the country of an enemy, and at another in the heat of battle, when he would cheer on the soldiers. A lock of hair and a few words of condolence will go to one more mourning family in place of the dear, noble boy.


[Note: James T. Prevo was the son of John and Jane Greer Prevo of Fountain County, Indiana.  He mustered in to the 40th Indiana on 21 Dec 1861 almost three years to the day of his death.  The record indicates he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Franklin TN on 20 November.  He is listed among the wounded in the Chicago Tribune (8 Dec 1864).  He was buried in the National Cemetery in New Albany Indiana. ]


This newspaper accounty shows James Provo with a shoulder injury. Other records indicated it was received in Franklin, Tennessee.

Great preparations are being made for Christmas tomorrow ; thus death and feasting go hand in hand in this strange world of ours.


Another died last Sunday in Ward 23, who had been for a long time in this ward. He shed tears when he was transferred, and I interceded to have him remain, but there are wards to which an order obliges patients to be removed when suffering from chronic diarrhea or lung diseases, and he was one of the former. But at his request I visited him, and after his death, which came suddenly, procured a lock of his hair from the dead-house and sent it to his father.


Christmas Evening.

Our dinner was truly a success. It was given by the Sanitary Commission principally, and a portion from the hospital fund. Much less stir was made about it, and one soldier expressed the general feeling, who said he " enjoyed the. Christmas dinner the most, for there wasn't so much style about it." Very excellent oyster soup for the light diet was given each time. Twenty-one hundred pies were issued for dinner, seventy-one cans of oysters, with eighteen hundred pounds of beef a la mode, also four barrels of pickles.


Friday, Dec. 30.

Most of the wards are now radiant with evergreen, tissue paper and pictures. I am content that mine should rank third or fourth in its adornings, rather than neglect the weightier matter of attending to the sick men—of whom I had quite a number last week requiring much care. The last death, mentioned under date of the 24th, was the second only in the ward since my entrance—a period of over two months, and the fifth since being in the charge of the present Burgeon, which is eight months. But the mortality in the hospital is increasing very much in consequence of war's grim visage .approaching nearer to us. A week ago last Sunday there were eleven dead bodies in the dead-house, and fourteen deaths occurred in three days.


[Note: Elvira Stockwell Powers was born on 6 August 1827 in Auburn, Worcester County, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of James and Prudence Stockwell.   Having already suffered the death of four children before the war, and with her husband, Edward Powers away in the Union army, Elvira headed to the south to work in the Union hospitals. She died a few years after the Civil War (1871) of consumption. 

The Inscription on her gravestone says: 

A devoted friend and nurse

to the soldiers in times of war and a lover of good

works in times of peace has gone home.]



Sources: Hospital Pencillings, Powers, 1866.; Adjutant General Report, Indiana; ChicagoTribune, * Dec 1864.US Civil War Pension Cards, US Census, New Albany National Cemetery Records.

More Letters to Santa - 1904


Throughout the years, boys and girls have taken the time to send their special requests to Santa Claus. These letters were written and published in the newspaper during the year 1904. Let’s examine the requests of the young Robertson county Tennessee citizens and learn more about these individuals.


Dear Santa:

I am a little girl 10 years old and want you to please bring me some doll furniture, a story-book, a good ball, a china doll, a little washboard and tub, a kite that will go very high, also some watercolors and a brush, roman candles, sky rockets and fire crackers and a lot of good things to eat. Please don’t forget my little brother, papa and mama. Your little friend,

Winnie Fort, Adams, Tenn.


Dear Santa,

Please don’t forget your little 4 year old boy, please bring me a rocking-horse, a whip, a ball, a horn, a little train, a baby doll, a monkey that climbs a string, a bicycle, a pistol and some caps, some fire crackers and a sleigh for me and my sister to ride in, apples, oranges, nuts, candy and bananas and any thing else you want to give me. Your little boy,

Billie Fort, Jr.  , Adams, Tenn.


Winnie Virginia Fort and William Dancy ‘Billy’ Fort, Jr. were the children of William Dancy ‘Billy’ and Anna Hamlett Fort of Adams, Tennessee.

Winnie was interested in family history and recorded much of the Fort family history. “My grandfather, Eppa Lawson Fort, had been married before he married Elizabeth Dancy. Their three sons were Jack, Ilai and Sugg. Uncle Ilai married my grandmother’s sister, Charlotte, a most aristocratic old lady. To my childish eyes she looked exactly like Queen Victoria of England. I remember asking Aunt Charlotte why she could not be Queen Victoria now, as she looked so much like her! I don’t believe the suggestion was well received…”

Winnie was born 15 March 1894 at Maple Hill, near Adams. Her father, Billy Fort, died just before Winnie’s sixteenth birthday (1910). Six months later on 10 September, she married J. Comer Gardner. Comer was the twin brother of Miss Cullom Gardner. Comer and Cullom were the children of Thomas Irvin and Ida Whitehead Gardner.

Winnie Fort and Comer Gardner were the parents of three daughters. Mildred Winnie Gardner was born in 1911. She married Charles Wright, Jr. on 5 Jan 1935 in Houston, Texas. In an interview, Winnie recalled, “My daughter, Mildred was born in my old home, Maple Hill, in the same room, and even in the same bed!

Marjorie Comer Gardner was born in 1916 in Weakley County, Tennessee. In 1940, she married Randol Sterling Harrison from Cedar Hill. The Harrisons were the parents of one daughter, Mary Gail, and moved to Maryland.

The youngest daughter, Mary Fort Gardner, was born in 1917 in Weakley County, Tennessee. In 1936, she married Nathan Cope of Robertson County. To this couple was born one daughter Cynthia Cope, who lived in Clarksville. After Mr. Cope died, Mary Fort married Clarence Fletcher of Adams. Mrs. Fletcher died in 2013. .

Comer and Winnie Fort Gardner moved to Weakley county to take advantage of the excellent schools in the community. By 1920, the family lived at 303 8th Avenue South in Nashville. Comer was working as a clerk for the newspaper. Winnie was maintaining a household with three small daughters.

In July 1920, Comer moved to Detroit, Michigan to work. Winnie and her daughters moved back to Robertson County with family. Comer hoped to come back quickly and move his family to Michigan. Whatever the circumstances were, Comer’s visit did not result in the family moving. By 1922, Winnie and Comer were divorced.

Mrs. Gardner went to Florida with her mother, Anna Fort. Winnie met and married a man from a pioneer Texas family. On December 9, 1922, Minor A. Hurst and Winnie Fort Gardner began their life together. Mr. Hurst worked for the Gulf Oil Corporation. He retired in 1954. Winnie Fort Hurst died in 1978 in McClennan County, Texas.

Billy Fort, Jr. was born 15 June 1900 at Maple Hill near Adams. Billy married Louise Johnson in 1925 and had two sons, William Dancy Fort, III and Robert Olin Fort. In 1946, William Dancy ‘Billy’ Fort, Jr. married Thelma Brown from Waco, Texas. They lived in Houston, where Mr. Fort was connected with the Citizens State Bank. He died in 1988 at McClennan County, Texas


Dear Santa Claus:

Please bring me an air gun, some story books, a pair of gloves, a suit of clothes and lots of good things to eat. Yours Truly,

Frank Huddleston,  Springfield, Tenn.


Frank Huddleston was born 20 October 1896 in Robertson County, Tennessee. He was the son of John M. and Ida Traughber Huddleston. The family lived in the Owens Chapel community.

Frank was inducted into the Army as a result of the World War I draft of 1918. He served with the 157th Depot Brigade to August of 1918. He was sent to France with the 161st Infantry, Company L and became part of the 165th Infantry, Company G for the duration of his service. He was honorably discharged on 8 May 1919.

After returning to the community, Frank married a young lady named Beatrice in 1924. They had a son, John F. Huddleston and a daughter, Mary L. Huddleston. Frank’s father, John M Huddleston, lived with the family. They lived on Orlinda Road. Frank Huddleston died 10 November 1964 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

One hundred and seventeen years ago, young boys and girls were excited about the coming of the jolly old elf from the North Pole. Perhaps things are not as different as we often suggest. Children still provide the excitement and passion for holidays and our dearest memories are those from our childhood. May you and your family have a special holiday season filled with the joys of the season.


Sources: Nashville Banner (15 Dec 1904); A Family Called Fort (Fort, Jones); U.S. Census (1900, 1910, 1920, 1930); WWI Statement of Service Cards; Robertson Co. Tenn Cemeteries; Chancery Court records


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Letters to Santa in 1903 - A Look Back to Christmas Past


Children in Robertson County Tennessee have always found a way to inform Santa of the treasures they hope to find under their tree on Christmas morning.  Although the items requested have changed, the letters still remind us of the joys of being a child at Christmas.  These letters to Santa, originally published in December 1903, were printed in the Nashville papers.

It is interesting to see how the requests change from year-to-year, while the letters continue to be sent.  Enjoy this look back, and you continue to celebrate this Holiday Season. 


Dear Santa: I am a little Country Boy Eight years old and all I ask  you to bring me is a little 22 rifle like that which Eldridge Douglas has.  He lives on Fatherland Street [Nashville]. I would like to have a knife, some Candies and nuts.  Papa takes the Banner.  Can I see this letter again.

 Alonzo Morris

White House, Tenn

Dear Santa, I am a little Country Boy and don’t get to see you so I will rite the  Banner as my Papa takes that paper that you will see what I want is a little toy Pistol, some bananas, candy, small knife and Oranges.  I am onley 6 years old

Alesson Morris

White House, Tenn

 Dear Santa Claus,

I am four years old and my little brother Reuben is two.  I want a doll, and a doll wardrobe and a trunk.  Reuben wants a play doll that will not break and a wagon and a box of candy.  My big brother Jack is eight, and he wants some skates and some leggins and we all want lots of good things and some firecrackers.  I wish you would bring Ed something too.  She is our nurse I am most always good and Reuben is sweet as sugar.

Kate Wimberly Killebrew

Guthrie, Kentucky

 Dear Santa Claus

I am eight years old and I have gotten fourteen head marks in spelling, and my Grandpa has given me a nice knife.  I want you to bring me an air gun, a watch and a bridle and saddle so I can ride the mules.  I can ride my self without a saddle, but I will need some more halters for them pretty soon.  I want some oranges and other good things and some firecrackers, too.  I am a real good boy most all the time, you can ask my Grandpa.

J. Buckner Killebrew

Guthrie, Ky

 Dear Santa Clause

I have been a good little boy. I want a twenty-two rifle, a pair of gloves, a pair of overshoes and leguns and candy, nuts oranges, apples.

William Williamson

Greenbrier, Tenn.

 Dear Santa Cluase

I have been going to school and I would be very glad if you would bring me a nice writing desk and stool, a pair of leggings, a football, 1 dozen longest Roman candles, some small fire crackers, some mice things to eat and I would like best of all to have a nice axe and saw, so that I may get in wood when Papa is away.  I shall sleep soundly

Frank Douglas Heflin

Cedar Hill, Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa Claus


I am a little girl 6 years old and living with my grandpa.  My name is Julia Armstrong.  My grandpa is taking the Nashville Banner.  Was looking over Banner and saw the Beauty beneath he Mistletoe, the Holly Wreath, and Young Hearts beneath the Mistletoe, and I was very much pleased when I heard grandpa reading your advertisement, and I thought I would write you a few lines and see if Dear Old Santa would bring me something nice Christmas.  I know I would pleased very much to find something nice in my stockings Christmas morning

Julia Armstrong


Dear Santa Claus

Please bring me some books, a tool chest with tools and I will promise not to cut, saw or nail on any part of the house.  Bring sister a doll, set of dishes, safe and anything else that will suit a nice little girl.  Bring my little brother a metal doll and building blocks.

Your little friends,


George Elmer Batts

Springfield, Tenn.

 Dear Santy

I want you to be here this Christmas and bring me a 22 rifle and Peck’s Bad Boy which is a book and some other books besides and some steam articles and don’t forget that rifle.  Sure I want some candy nuts and all kind of things to eat I need some shoes and a rain coat too, but I can do without them if you wont forget that rifle.  I want some fireworks though and any thing else you will be kind enough to bring but be sure to bring the rifle.  Your good friend.

Fred Moore Smith

Springfield, Tenn.


P.S. Be sure to remember the Banner man.

My darling Santa

How are you?  I hope you are alright and will be sure to come Christmas.  I am going to look for you because I have been a good girl.  I have kept my doll nice and you need not bring me another but sure Santa she needs some clothes and I hope you will bring her some and please bring me a diamond ring, a good fairy tale book, a pretty piece of music, Some more dishes to match the last ones, a mackintosh, some leggins and plenty to eat.  Be sure to bring brother all he wants and my cousins William, Ruth, and Lealand too.  Do not for get Mother, Father, and Mr. Head. Rappy Granny and all the poor children.  Thanking you for coming last Christmas and hoping you will come again I am your loving little girl.

Rebecca Florence Smith

Springfield, Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa

I am a little girl 9 years old.  I go to school every day.  I have never missed a day yet.  I want you to bring me a nice doll, a new cloak and some nuts, candy fruits and figs, and anything else you think is nice for me.  So good bye Santa.  Your little girl

Laura Cook

 My Dear Old Santa Clause

Please bring me a doll with brown hair and eyes that will go to sleep, a speech book, a game , a story book, some nice candy, nuts, oranges, and some fireworks , and anything else you have for nice little girls.  Your little friend,

Virginia B. Couts

Springfield, Tenn.


Dear Santa Clause

I am  years old and I have been a good little boy, so I hope you won’t forget me.  Old Santa Clause please bring me a large brass cannon that will shoot a rubber ball and a large engine that I can set in and run it, that is if you have one.  Bring me a velocipede with a bell on it, and some talc to write on my blackboard with. I will leave the rest to you. I forgot to say I wanted some nuts and oranges an bananas.  Good by Santa, I remain truly yours.

Lemoyne Baskette


Dear Old Santa Clause

I am a little boy 7 years old, and I would like for you to bring me a game of Authors, a speech book, a bear jumping the rope, some fireworks, lots of candy, nuts, oranges and anything else you may have for nice little boys and please bring my little brother, Bryan, a little red wagon, a monkey that will walk around when you wind him up, and some nice things to eat.  Your little friend,

Haywood Couts

Springfield, Tenn


PS  I will be at Aunt Mattie Mason’s that night.

 Dear Santa Clause

Please bring me and my brother Robert all kinds of candy, and nuts, oranges, apples, wax and cheese and crackers. Bring me a doll a large one that will cry and go to sleep.  I would like to have a set of furniture for it to.  Bring Robert a little train and some firecrackers and roman cannons.   Yours

Minnie and Robert Fry


Dear Santa Clause

I live in Springfield, Tenn., on Spring Street.  I go to school.  I want a nice doll, kid body, Golden curls of natural hair.  I would like a nice Book also a Game and anything else.  I’ll take all you bring with many thanks to you.  Bring my Mother a new Drugget for her room and for Father a nice pair of Gloves would suit him.  Go to see my little Nephew Altman Brooks.  He lives in Birmingham, Ala.  Please carry him everything a little boy would like for I want him to have lots of fun.  With much love I am your little girl.

Lula D. Robertson

P.S. Please carry Sister something nice.

Springfield,  Tenn.

 Dear Old Santa Claus

I am five years old and am a very good boy and especially when I am asleep and if you will bring me the following for Xmas I’ll try very hard to be a beter boy next year.  I want a writing desk with slates on it a Drum, Horn, picture book, a pistol and some fireworks, Mamma will furnish the candy, nuts, oranges and all things good to eat.  I forgot the doll.  I want a nice little doll dressed in pink with bloomer drawers on.

John Thomas Lowe

P.S. Don’t forget my sister and little brother.


Dear Santa Claus

 I am just 3 years old and am sick with a very bad cold and mamma will not let me go out, and I want some new playthings to keep me from crying so much.  The doctor is coming tonight to see me and I hope to be better tomorrow.  Please bring me a tricycle, little desk, a little drum and drumstick to hit it with, a doll, picture book and a little horse and anything else you can spare.  Also some blocks to build with.  I want to be well to enjoy it Christmas.

Harold Gladstone Lowe


 Mr Sandy Claws

United States of America

Dear Sandy

If you please bring me some raisins and nuts and candy, and oranges and apples and knife.  I have been a bad boy all the year.  I can’t be a good boy.  Yours truly.

J.C. Hollingsworth

Barren Plains, Tenn.

Dear Santa Claus

I am a little boy seven years old, I went to school every day until two months ago.  I fell and broke my left arm, but I hope too be able to attend regular after Christmas.  Dear Santa I’ve tried to be a good boy, and want you to bring me a real little train, a big horn, a big drum, a lot of fireworks, a large book telling all about the Presidents of our country, a chair, a basket of fruit,. Please bring them to my Ma’s.  Dear Santa be kind to all the orphans and don’t forget my Ma, Pa and teacher she is so kind and good.

Sheridan Redmond

Guthrie, Ky.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Remembering a First Memory!


My first cognizant memory was the New Years' Eve when I was two-years-old.  I'm not sure why I remember it was that date, but know that the memory has always been my memory - not an event that my siblings or parents told.  Both my Mom and Dad confirmed the memory over the years, but the clue was the fact that I had the croup that year. We were living in a house owned by Dr. Robert Elder, that was very near the feed mill owned by my parents.  In fact, this lot adjoined the feed mill lot.  [Important for a genealogist, who always tries to put the whole story together. 

I was feeling better in the evening, and was lying on the couch wrapped up.  Soon, people in the neighborhood (town of Cedar Hill)  were shooting fireworks in celebration of the coming New Year.  I'm sure that my brothers had a few firecrackers and maybe a few rockets of their own to propel in the stars. 

I remember Dad picking me up off of the couch, and wrapped me in a soft, orange plaid blanket with satin wrapped bound edges.  He carried me outside to see the fireworks.  I remember the laughter of my siblings, the noise of firecrackers, the oohs when a colorful rocket exploded in the air, and the brilliant colors. As the fireworks continued, I remember seeing the bright light reflecting on my Dad's face.  I was warm, secure and protected.  There were other people around watching these fireworks outside, but, mostly, I remember seeing the faces of my family.  

My older brothers always enjoyed shooting fireworks.  This pattern  continued into adulthood. Other than this strange year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have gathered in the Summer to enjoy fireworks at my brother - Denny's house.   As a fireman, he always ensured that the fireworks were handled safely, always made with proper precautions, and available equipment.  As the younger nieces and nephews grew, they were allowed to participate in the family tradition.

I think that the reason this memory remains so vivid in my mind, is that it includes the faces of my family. My family has always provided a warm, secure place to grow, be loved, and be encouraged.  It has been a long time, but FAMILY ALWAYS COUNT!  I understand that not all of us have been blessed to grow in an family like this.  I wish all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR that brings you joy, love and happiness in your life.   

I look forward to sharing more of my memories with you in the coming days.  Memories shared are part of Keeping The Story Alive!        J. Mark Lowe

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Growing Up Christmas, Part 2

We continue the stories from Christmas long ago.
At the feed mill, my Dad would let me play with his adding machine, which had large type bars which came up when you pulled the handle. I liked putting in all nines, so the bars would come all the way up. Eventually, the noise would be too much and he would tell me I could go sweep the warehouse.   Now this was a code word to me that I could go play. He only let me sweep when we weren’t busy at the feed mill. If you have never been to a feed mill, there was dust everywhere.  So I would go out and tell my brothers that Dad said we could sweep.  We would all fight over the big broom, but would all grab one and start sweeping.  The feed mill had beautifully finished hardwood floors, which would have been suitable for a fine town home, and therefore were easy to sweep. Once we had gathered up all of the dust, we knew we had time for some play.
There were moving dollies or hand trucks that were used to stack large bags of feed to be moved to and from the dock.  The ones at the feed mill were made of wood with metal reinforcements and a metal tongue for stacking.  They were excellent at rolling young children to and fro on a newly-swept hardwood floor. Wayne and Denny would take turns rolling each other and me, although they often would roll me into a wall of bags.  We would all laugh and continue to play until a customer drove up, or Dad gave us another assignment.
If Mom had to go to town to finish shopping without the prying eyes of children, Dad would take us to lunch at the Cedar Hill Grill later known as the Golden Point Restaurant and Motel. Charles B. and Lucille Fulks Powell ran the service station on Highway 41 in Cedar Hill. In the early 1950s they added a motel and small restaurant that was named Cedar Hill Grill and Motel. Many of the local residents remember the restaurant and motel.  It was famous for the good country cooking and homemade pies. Mrs. Powell made all of the pies from her own recipes even down to the crust. Pecan, Chocolate, Coconut, and fruit pies were often on the menu. The restaurant when full to capacity, which was most of the time, held 35 people.
Wayne, Denny and I usually got hamburgers and fries, while Dad often ordered a regular plate lunch. We almost always got dessert, which for me was a slice of warm pecan pie with ice cream. I can still remember some of the conversations between my Dad and brothers at lunch. 
Once we headed back to the feed mill, we would enjoy all of the wonderful farmers who traded with my Dad. We had a great opportunity to know so many extraordinary people, who played such a large part in our lives.
I’ve already shared my shopping experience at Gregg’s 5 and 10. The way this secretive shopping worked was I brought all of the items to the front, while my Mom shopped in another part of the store.  My purchases would be rung up, bagged and held until my Mom finished.  My total was six dollars. I had purchased over ten items, including a large plastic flute for my brother, Denny, a stuffed dog for my sister, Beverly, a tie clip for my brother, Joe, and a checker game for my brother, Wayne.  When we got home, I knew that I had to hide the flute from Denny, (he had a reputation of sneaking under the tree) so I stuck it inside a paper towel cardboard roll and hid it under my pillow.  My sister, Beverly, helped me wrap all of the presents (but hers) and label them with tags.  She even helped me wrap the flute, which I hid under my pillow again, so Denny wouldn’t find it under the tree.
Christmas always included lots of friends and family in our house. This meant that where the kids slept often moved from night-to-night. Remember I had hidden Denny’s gift, a red plastic flute, under my pillow to keep him from discovering it. At that time, the Lowe boys slept in bunkbeds made from heavy angle iron. I slept on the bottom bunk and Denny slept on the top bunk, while Wayne and Joe slept in matching bunkbeds on the other wall. With cousins, Uncles and Aunts added to the household, it was always chaotic, but fun.
Somewhere in the hustle and bustle in the days before Christmas, there was wrapping of presents hidden on every bed and table in the household. The resulting trash paper would be bundled up for burning.
Finally, Christmas Eve arrived and it was time for Christmas in the Lowe household. We had a wonderful dinner that definitely included Aunt Martha’s fruit salad, Miss Lucille’s chocolate or caramel pie, and rolls. It seemed that we young kids could move through that wonderful meal in seconds.  “Let’s open presents,” became our refrain.
Minutes seemed like hours as we sat under the tree waiting for the adults to finish their holiday dinner. Occasionally, someone would remind us not to touch the treasures under the Christmas tree.
Finally, everyone would crowd around the living room and the Christmas tree. Every chair would be moved into the room and once everyone was seated, it was time.  Denny and I would be selected to distribute the gifts to the waiting crowd. Every tag was read aloud.  Wayne would help me with the poorly written names. There were gifts from “Guess Who?”  This usually meant they were from Aunt Martha and Uncle Kenny.
Once the gifts were distributed, we started with the youngest child and worked our way to the oldest. At this point in time I was the youngest and began to discover the wonderful treasures in my pile.  I remember among this year’s gifts a wind-up lion toy, a peppermint stick as thick as my brother’s arm, and a new blue notebook with paper.  We then moved to one of my cousins, then another, then finally time for Denny.
He opened his gifts, thanking the givers, then turning to another package.  As he opened his last gift, I said, “Where’s your present from me?”  As we looked again under the tree, and everyone examined their pile.  I remembered it was hidden under my pillow.  Running to the bunk bed and feeling under my pillow, there was no present. We looked all around the bedroom and someone suggested they had picked up some red paper from the bedroom and discarded it in the trash can. Our search went to the trash can. There was no flute.  We finally decided it had been thrown away and burned in our trash pile earlier that day.
Although Denny was not upset, I described his red flute in great detail. Fortunately, we are able to laugh about that little red flute even today.
May your family have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Remember to share your memories with your family. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Growing Up Christmas, Part One

Photo:Family and Friends gathered for a Lowe Family Christmas celebration: (L to R) Frank T. Jones, Denny Lowe (known for sneaking under the Christmas tree), Flossie Denton Haynes, Mark Lowe (down in front), Lucille Chester Jones Smith, Wayne Lowe (enjoying some nog).  

While touring the wonderful homes on the Historic Homes Christmas Tour this weekend, I felt a warm, traditional feeling come over me. It reminded me of the days not so long ago, when the last day of school before Christmas meant the Holiday was upon us.  Join me as I go back a few years to one of those days.
When I ran into the house, my Mom and sister were waiting to take me to town to finish up our shopping.  Now I thought I was really finished anyway.  We had bought my school friends’ and teacher’s gifts, plus I had spent several dollars at Gossett’s General Store on the important gifts I bought my family.  We hopped into our big green Oldsmobile and headed to Springfield, while a light snow continued to fall.  We stopped at Kroger’s first, then headed over to Ehrenwald’s for several boxes; down to Randolph House & Co for some other items; and down the hill to Gregg’s for our last bit of shopping.  My Mom asked if I needed to do any more Christmas shopping.  I told her I would like to get a few things for the family and went down the aisles to complete my purchases. 
The way this secretive shopping worked was I brought all of the items to the front, while my Mom shopped in another part of the store.  My purchases would be rung up, bagged and held until my Mom finished.  My total was six dollars. I had purchased over ten items, including a large plastic flute for my brother, Denny, a stuffed dog for my sister, Beverly, a tie clip for my brother, Joe, and a checker game for my brother, Wayne.  When we got home, I knew that I had to hide the flute from Denny, (he had a reputation of sneaking under the tree) so I stuck it inside a paper towel cardboard roll and hid it under my pillow.  My sister, Beverly, helped me wrap all of the presents (but hers) and label them with tags.  She even helped me wrap the flute, which I hid under my pillow again, so Denny wouldn’t find it under the tree.
It was still a few days until Christmas, so it seemed that the hours just dragged along. The weather was really cold, so to go outside one had to wear several layers of clothing and then put on the heavy waterproof coat with a hood along with a muffler wrapped around your face. I think this is why we all appreciate the scene from Randy (the brother) falling down in Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.  Once you were bundled up and couldn’t move around we could venture out for a few minutes, until the face turned red and then you were ordered back into the house to warm up. The only time we could stay out a little longer was when we were feeding our baby calves.  We would heat up enough water to mix with powdered milk formula for the calves.  My brothers would argue over who got to pop the nipple over the bottle, but eventually we would head out to the pens to feed.  We usually got these calves from Mr. Leon Haynes, who had culled them from his dairy herd.  The calves would nudge and butt us, which was a natural way to stimulate their mothers to provide milk.  I was small enough that they often just knocked me over.  My brothers would laugh and tell me to hold on.  I would get back up and try again.  Occasionally we would have a calf, which would bite on the bottle so hard, they would pull the nipple off and the milk would run out.  If this happened, one of us had to start over with that calf.  My brothers could hold the bottle close to the calf’s mouth to prevent this, but my hands were too small and it was all I could do to hold the bottle anyway.
If I was lucky, Dad (J. W. Lowe) would take me to the Feed Mill on the days when we were out of school.
The Feed Mill was located in Cedar Hill where the road split between Main Street and Washington Road. Across the street was the Cedar Hill Methodist Church and next door was the Cedar Hill Baptist Church.  Today, the site of the Feed Mill is the parking lot of the Baptist Church.
There were four steep steps to the front door of the Feed Mill. At least they were very steep to a youngster like me. A storm door opened outward, which served as an additional obstacle to one short like me. Once inside, it was a kids’ dream – jars of bagged peanuts, a candy bar machine and a soft drink cooler.  The office was closed off from the rest of the building.  There were various types of heaters over the years from milk room electric heaters to propane heaters, but there was always a place to warm up. The balance of the building was unheated, which meant we had to store the extra soft drinks in the office to keep them from freezing.  My brothers, Denny and Wayne were the masters of making a drink freeze just right.  Once frozen to the right consistency, they would roll the bottle in their hands until the soft drink became a slushy treat.  One of our favorite frozen drinks was Kick, a drink very similar to Mountain Dew. RCs or Royal Crown colas were a close second.  If the weather was warmer, we were satisfied with a bag of peanuts poured into an RC cola.
Join me next week for more Christmas stories and fun.   Be sure to share your Christmas memories with your family over the next few days.

J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
Springfield, Tennessee Speakers
powered by Speaker Wiki