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9-9-09 Oconee Remembered 1940’s # 3 - Dirt Roads and Homegrown Food

While we lived in the country, our relatives from metro-Atlanta would come from time to time to eat “country food” of ham, biscuits, garden vegetables, pies and cakes. They enjoyed the meals tremendously and would “brag on” Mama and her cooking.

AVOC

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August 30, 2009

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Oconee Remembered 1940’s # 3 - Dirt Roads and Homegrown Food

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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In rural Oconee County in 1940, residents mostly lived on dirt roads, used mules for plowing fields and few had indoor plumbing, electrical appliances. televisions and no telephones.  Those things came around 1950 -51 for my family.  

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Our first television came in 1950.This is picture of the Philco and my sisters in mid-fifties

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County road scrapes, driven by County Farm inmates would scrape the dirt roads and “pull the ditches” on a regular basis.   Most employment in the county was farming - largely cotton and grains - wheat and oats.

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Jimmy Daniell Road ca 40’s - 50’s

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All Oconee Farms grew cotton that was handpicked!

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Most rural homes had cows or access to one for milk, chickens for eggs and meat, and raised hogs for meat.   Spring weather brought plowing of the fields, planting of cotton, mostly by mules and men walking behind the mule and plow.   Summer brought the crops into maturity, with grain cutting, cotton hoeing and plowing, and “playing in the creek.”

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Chickens often ran loose in yards in the 40’s

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A mule and plow was a common sight in Oconee in the 40’s and early 50’s

Photo Courtesy of Monticello News

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A typical Oconee County garden of the 40’s & early 50’s

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Fall brought cotton picking, pumpkins and the regional agricultural fair with its food and livestock exhibits and fairway of shows, games of chance (with dishes and teddy bear prizes) and exotic rides including the Ferris Wheel and many more.

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Many Oconee youngsters picked cotton for Fair Money

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Late fall and winter brought hog killing and “putting up” of meat.   Hams and shoulders and bags of sausages were hung in the smoke house.   Fresh meat of the “spare parts”, feet, liver, chitterlings, press meat and others were used by many for food.

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Wheat was taken to local water powered mills for grinding into flour.   Corn was ground for grits and cornbread.    Some ground cane for syrup.Pears, peaches, figs and apples were harvested and made into pies, fritters, jellies, preserves and other delicious uses.   I remember wheat (for flour) and corn (for cornbread) being taken to the mill, powered by a water wheel on a stream, at Snow’s Mill and other sites.

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Inside of a typical flour mill

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While demographic data showed a poor rural environment, most residents had plenty to eat and had entertainment and a social life that was wholesome and fulfilling.

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Fall brought hunting for rabbits, squirrel, raccoon and other. These animals were made into stews for the cold winter days to bring diversity to the table.  A standard breakfast fare consisted of: homemade biscuits, fried or scrambled eggs, ham, shoulder or fatback and white gravy cooked in the frying pan that had cooked the meat. In the summer, tomato slices were also on the table.

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Large pots of stew, crackers, tea and pickles were frequent winter meals

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A typical meal would include hot biscuits.    In the Dawson household, we followed Daddy’s example and buttered two biscuits at the beginning of the meal.  As we finished our meal we would eat the biscuits with preserves, jellies, syrup, etc.    Many a rural Oconee County youngster would have a ‘between meals’ snack consisting of a biscuit with a hole poked in the side and syrup poured in the hole.

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A hot buttered biscuit and syrup was a delicious treat

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Dinner (lunchtime now) brought biscuits, butterbeans, pork, beef or fried chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peas, beans, peach pickles and much more.   An apple or peach pie or a cake was not unusual for dessert.   Banana pudding was a frequent Sunday dessert.   In the summer, sometimes strawberry shortcake was an added treat.

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Most farm homes canned fruits and vegetables for Winter Meals

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Aunt Becky still cans fruits and vegetables – a favorite is Fig Preserves

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Supper time (dinner now) brought more of the lunch fare, or depending on the season, fried ham, hot biscuits, gravy and preserves.   I buttered many a biscuit for eating jellies, syrup and preserves, after most breakfasts and suppers.   Biscuits were often opened and covered with gravy and sometimes chipped tomatoes.   Homemade biscuits were standard fare. They were a delicacy.Some women were widely known as knowing how to “make good biscuits.”   SAUSAGE GRAVY AND BISCUITS

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Pans of biscuits were standard fare in Farm Homes of the 40’s- for small and large families

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While we lived in the country, our relatives from metro-Atlanta would come from time to time to eat “country food” of ham, biscuits, garden vegetables, pies and cakes.   They enjoyed the meals tremendously and would “brag” on Mama and her cooking.

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We bought most of our groceries from Hamilton’s Store on U. S. 441 at Princeton Community just over the Clarke County line.  To us kids, a real treat was fish, hot dogs, baloney (bologna), smoke links, catsup and mustard and bananas and vanilla wafers.   Banana Pudding was a common and frequent dessert.   Later, stick margarine came along and allowed for a regular supply of butter without churning.

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Rolling Stores (George Hill, E C McCurley and Hoyt Autry) would travel to many Oconee rural homes and sold seasoning and other ‘store bought’ items in the 40’s.

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The Rolling Store of the 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s

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Hamilton’s Grocery was a wooden structure during my childhood.

It was ‘bricked’ when it closed in 1995.

Photo courtesy of Connie Epps Bond

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HOG KILLING

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Hog pens were common in the 40’s and 50’s in Oconee County

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In the forties and fifties, most rural residents of Oconee County raised much of their food on the farm.   Meats consisted of chickens, pork, and beef with fish as a treat.

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Most farms had at least two or three hogs in the hog pen.In late Fall, during cold or freezing weather, Hog Killing was a big thing. Sometimes relatives and neighbors would participate and kill several hogs at one time. There was a place for dressing and slaughtering hogs near a little crib next to the branch below the home house. There were trees or sometimes poles with single trees on which hog carcasses were hung for butchering. The first step involved starting a roaring fire under the big pot used to submerge a hog to loosen hair.The pot was large enough to accommodate a large hog body. When the water was boiling, arrangements were made to bring the hog to be scalded for “dressing”.

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Hog Killing was not always pleasant. Most of the hogs were shot in the head with a .22 rifle and then hauled to the slaughter place. They were then pushed into a big black pot of boiling water to loosen the hair on the hog.Hooks were run through the ligaments of the hog’s legs to allow human arms to reach far enough to submerge the hog in the hot water. The hog was turned until hair was easily pulled out by hand. The hog was then pulled out of the scalding water and placed on wood or rock flooring for skinning or removing the hog’s hair.

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Old Time Hog Killing, Sausage and Lard Making

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HOG KILLING TIME

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HOG-KILLIN' TIME in Hood County, Texas

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When the hair was removed, the hog was hooked to the single tree (a device with hooks on each end used to pull plows behind mules). The single tree was attached to a large rope or chain on a pulley and then a truck or tractor would be used to pull the hog up with the hind legs. When the hog was fully extended, belly side out, the men would then cut the hog down the middle and internal organs were removed. Some folks saved the liver, intestines for chitterlings (that was never popular in our house), brains and other organs used later for “press meat” which was not one of my favorite dishes.

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The hog was then quartered resulting in hams, shoulders and ribs. Hams and shoulders were then placed in croker cloth and hung in the smoke house for curing. Often times they were submerged in salt in a box for that purpose in the little log house near the front of the house.Later during the year, a ham or shoulder was removed from the salt box and taken to the house for cooking over the coming weeks.

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Parts of the hog meat, besides ribs and shoulders, were taken in a tub to the house where the women would cut it up and run it through a meat grinder attached to a table to make sausage. Sausage was forced into a tight elongated cloth sack for hanging in the smoke house for curing. Bacon or streaks of lean were sometimes taken from the area near the ribs and back and cured. Press meat was also ground and made with the grinder. Press meat and chitterlings were not popular with me or my family.

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The night after a hog killing, we would have fresh meat to eat. The meat lasted for weeks or months, and sometimes until the next hog killing time. A large family needed more meat and thus more hogs.


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