“Back in the day” we were living in a different time – a different world.
Children certainly were not deprived, but because of the economy and having to start over, there were few toys to occupy us, so we made our own fun which children do not have to do today. What we did would not be entertaining and fun in today’s culture.
“Back in the day” was at the end of the Great Depression when most daddies had just been called back to work after being laid off their jobs for several years. My daddy had just moved us back from his parents who lived on a farm below Atlanta when I was around three years old.
These memories were when this kid was about three to seven years old. It all happened on almost Main Street in McCaysville-Copperhill, in a small rental house when daddy had been called back to work at the Tennessee Copper Company. What I am remembering was mostly through the 1930s.
This was a new life for my family, who had to pull up roots and moved south during the Depression. Daddy had his job back. Mother stayed at home. I made new friends in the neighborhood where there were children in most every house, while my sister at first was so little she stayed inside.
To start the memories, I must say that I did have a few toys. One of my favorites was a doll about six to eight inches tall. One day I was playing with it, and my baby sister began crying for it from her playpen. Mother said for me to let her see it for a minute. Very hesitantly I handed it to her. It did not take “for a minute” for her to hold it up in the air and throw it into the burning fireplace. Maybe that is why I enjoyed playing outside so much!
Probably my first recollection of children playing was hearing a group playing and laughing three doors down at that big brick building called the First Baptist Church. When I eased down there, which was my easing limit, children were sliding down the concrete slope which was on the brick wall at the two sets of steps. I was so little I did not dare do this, but I certainly could watch! It didn’t take long for me to grow bigger and take part in this wonder activity. By the way, Preacher Cutts didn’t care for his son was a ring leader!
Some of the bigger boys would congregate across the street from the church, in a curve, and play in the dirt in the culvert. My mother thought this was dangerous and called to them. One of them answered, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Holden, my daddy doesn’t care if we play in the street!!” Kids…
One of my closest friends, Johnny Christopher, lived in the house behind ours and another house, but right on the river bank. Actually, the little house was built up on stilts. I could go to their house, but not get near the river.
Johnny and I played dirt and running games. He could not talk plain, so I never knew what he said, but only knew what games we played. His mother told my mother what he had said. “Tawk abot you purry gurs, Patchie Hoie beachie aw.” (Talk about your pretty girls, Patsy Holden beats them all.)
My first friend and my first compliment! What a day!
This is an event that most people have never seen. There was a young boy, probably an older teenager, who lived a ways up the road from us. We always loved to see him coming for he would be running and rolling an automobile tire at high speed. It had no tube nor rim and he never lost it all the way to his destination in town. To him, this was his car, and yes, we got out of his way!
Not everything happened outside. Back in the day there were still families who were in need. Every once in a while, a beggar would come to the houses around town and ask for food. Mother would answer the back door, for they never came to the front. He would be dressed in shabby dark ragged clothing, unshaven, and sometimes on a cane. This would scare the living daylights out of kids. She would go in the kitchen and give him what she had to spare. He would thank her and go on his way, while we were peeping around watching him.
Now to the action things!! In Daddy’s job back then, he had other responsibilities with the Company than his office. From time to time, he would go back at night to check on some things. Guess what?? Kids wanted to go, too!
We piled in the car, and before we got through town, we were on our daddy’s case to “take us over the dip.” We had learned that around this curved Company road there were little hills and dales to experience. Our first cry was, “Daddy, take us over the dip.” Then, the speed limit was probably about 30 miles per hour on the highways, so it was not the speed, it was the thrill of dipping off that rise into the valley. Let me tell you, it was like riding a roller coaster from the feel in your stomach as you fell into the back seat yelling to do it again! Life was simple then.
We would go to the guard house where he checked on the guards and their situation. What was fun to us was that we could get out of the car and play around on the paved area while our daddy spent time spinning yarns with his guards. Paved areas were very sparse back in the day!
The most glorious sight on most all occasions, if Daddy timed it right, was the pouring out of the molten slag on a bank near the Company. This was the remains from the furnaces where they smelted the copper. It was red hot and was dumped out of a railroaded vessel on the bank above. To us it looked like the world was on fire as it covered a wide area. The rocky remains of it still remain as a memory on the bank of the Company road. If we had not lived in town, we would not have experienced such fabulous sights!
Another exciting destination was going to the Company’s housing called “The Blue Goose.” This was rooming for the single men working at the Company. It was at that time a huge wooden building with a kitchen big enough to feed the whole town I thought. Daddy had to often check on this at night to see how things were going.
You walked in this big kitchen after hours with nobody there. It was clean as a pen, and I had never seen so many kitchen appliances and tools at that time.
While we were still all agog over everything, Daddy opened the refrigerator, which was the biggest thing I had ever seen. Right up front was a platter of leftover fried pork chops. Daddy just reached in, handed us each one by the bone end, and told us we could eat it! That was better than an ice cream or a coke in that day and time. Despite the mess, we ate it, for after all, Mother had not had a big ole fried pork chop for supper that night. Yes, everything was alright at “The Goose” that night, especially the pork chop!
A big scare came right in my front yard one day. My daddy had finally been able to buy a newer car, and he had parked it in the driveway. Naturally, I was so excited over this that I wanted to “drive” it. What entertainment it was to sit behind the wheel of that car and pretend I was going somewhere.
I imagine I must have turned that wheel and backed up a thousand times!
My next door neighbor, an older, fun loving guy, saw me having fun. He slipped around behind the car which was light in those days, and lifted it up and down and hid himself behind it. Mercy, I was scared to death because I just knew I had started the motor in some way. I screamed, jumped out, and suddenly saw my neighbor on the sidewalk, shaking all over with laughter.
I flew mad when I saw what he had done. I remember screaming ugly things at him that I had never heard before. When my nerves calmed down, I forgave him, for after all, his wife had made me my first glass of Kool-Aid. I got to watch the powder magically turn into deliciousness!
Talk about bad tricks, one day I pulled one, totally unaware! The Toccoa Street in front of our house was not paved at the time. It was just packed down gravel, and cars usually went slow by the houses. The real event in all of this was that I got to watch the street get its first paving.
One day while on the porch I saw this huge machine coming up from town toward our house. It had a huge brush type sweeper on the front, and rocks and dust were flying everywhere. Upon running in the house, I found out that the street was being prepared for paving. Not knowing what paving was, I proceeded to watch it all being done in the next few days.
My mischievous, innocent event happened between brushing and the time of paving. When Daddy came in from work each evening, “we” would get out the water hose and water down the sidewalk and dusty street so we could breathe.
Naturally, my helpful hands had to be a part of it. I had the hose in my hand when a car came ambling up the street from town, and I was so busy I didn’t notice it. In that day, the car windows were all down, yet my water hose was still up, and I wet the car and passengers as well. They slowed down and waved and laughed as they went on their way. They probably appreciated a shower on that hot summer day.
The Kiwanis Karnival, sponsored by the local club, was held once a year, and a kid thought it was a tremendous event. They blocked off the street through Copperhill, put in many wooden makeshift booths, and crowds gathered to have fun and support the funds of the club. Kids had the usual fishing game, and some more that I don’t remember. If an adult ever threw a ball and won you a prize, you cherished it forever. There were clowns, food, games for all ages, and anything exciting that you could imagine. This was a big deal in our town and was until the times outdated it.
You probably would never believe that there was a big wholesale building two houses above us. It was a wooden building, painted a reddish brown. The color never mattered to me; it was the size and the huge loading dock on the front, which looked like a huge front porch to me. The reason I was so taken by this was that the owner also owned our rental house, and we were all friends. I was not a bit interested that they sold to local businesses most of their goods, ranging from groceries on to feed for cows, etc.
Salesmen would come in cars and park there all of the time, along with delivery trucks, making this quite a busy place. I was warned not to go out there and was allowed to go so far on the sidewalk. What a disadvantage!
Sometime “Arp,” as we called him, would bring us sample candy that the salesmen had left. Every day I was on the lookout.
My main experience here was watching the workers unload freight off of the railroad car across the street. Over this city street was built a fairly wide wooden ramp, over which freight was rolled on to the dock. The freight car was sidetracked until later when it was empty. Imagine a kid watching this and hoping they would not fall off into the street!
Well, I guess I had watched this long enough, so one day when no one was at the wholesale or looking from my house, I decided to make the great adventure to the wholesale, on the dock, and across the ramp going over the street. I had been told not to go to the wholesale, but I never remembered being told not to go across the ramp!
Here I eased on across, but when I got across to the box car, I realized that I had to go back across the ramp and over the street to get home! What a scary predicament I had gotten myself into. It was all because of boredom and probably being told not to go to the wholesale. Now, holding the bottom sides of my dress, which would keep me from falling off, I sort of flew back across. Nobody ever knew this, and it satisfied my curiosity and my evil skill to do it, but never again!
As the song goes, “Those were the days, my friend,” but yes, they finally did come to an end. My daddy had bought a house about a mile and a half out of town, and we moved there for more kid adventures. I missed my playmates and the action, for at first nobody had kids near us. I fully believe that we were destined to live in that little house downtown, for if we had not lived there, I could not have had such vivid childhood memories that you had to make on your own. I am so grateful that I can still remember having the time of my life without many toys and entertainment.
I believe I must close these rambling events for it seems that I can still hear a voice coming from the house saying things you don’t often hear today.
“Kids, come on in the house. Supper is about on the table.”
-By PAT KOVSKY-DOTSON