Momma was a gentle giant. We could not afford non-essentials such as scales. So, I am not sure if even she ever knew her weight. But, she was a load.
Momma was the antithesis of Dad, who was angry all the time. The list of people who did not like Momma would be very short. She was good-natured, easy going, and always optimistic that tomorrow would be better than today. She took great pleasure from simple things such as the wild morning glories that grew all over the place. She rubbed our bruises, put cow salve on the cuts, and made it all better with a little tenderness.
It would be pretty safe to say that we were financially the poorest of Mom’s siblings.
We always had something to eat because Momma raised a big garden. We ate fresh from it in the summertime and she canned a lot of stuff for the winter months. In the fall we would butcher a hog. We would hang it in what we called the smokehouse. However, we did not cure by smoking, but by salt. We could eat off of that during the cold months but if there were any left by spring it would spoil.
Each spring, Momma ordered baby chickens by mail. They were supposed to be all males. But out of a hundred chicks, probably six to ten were females. We would save them to replace the old hens that died off. As soon as the males got to an eating stage, we would start thinning the herd. Many were killed and eaten as quickly as they could be prepared.
The ‘frying size’ roosters all reached that stage at the same time. We would have several days of intense chopping and plucking. I am not sure of the exact procedure. But this will be close. Momma killed them by laying their heads on the chopping block and whacking them off with an ax. As soon as they stopped flopping around, they were dunked in a large black cast iron kettle of boiling water. That loosed the feathers up so that they were easier to pluck. I plucked a many a one but still have yet to enjoy the experience. Wet chicken feathers have a distinctly unappetizing smell. Don’t recall that it ever kept me from eating one.
They were moved into the kitchen where Momma cut them up. Cooked them to some degree, blanched perhaps. Put them in a large mouth gallon glass jar. Filled the rest of the jar with grease from hog lard. Capped the jar and stored it for future use. Despite all of the gardening, butchering, and berry picking, many of our meals came down to the bare-bones of cornbread and milk or cornbread and soup beans.(Navy Beans)
For a good portion of my youth, we did not have electricity. That drastically limited the ability to keep food. We drank milk at room temperature, usually the day that it came from the cow. If we had butter it was churned the day we ate it by putting the cream in a quart jar and shaking it by hand until it congealed. Churning was in a dead heat with chicken plucking on the enjoyment scale.
In those days, if someone happened up to your house at mealtime, they were invited to eat. And they usually did. Our mostly standard invitation was, “ You are welcome to stay and eat with us. We are having bean and withit. But very little withit.”
The primary use of the big cast iron pot was laundry. Momma would build a fire under the pot and put in the clothes when the water came to a boil. She substituted a cut off broom handle for an agitator. She lifted, rotated, dunked and stirred the load until it was clean. She used the same broom handle to transfer the hot clothes to the washtub of cool water for rinsing. Then she wrung them out by hand and hung them on the line. In the winter, the clothes often froze between the wringing and hanging stage.
Ironing was as primitive as washing. Momma had several sadirons that she rotated on and off the wood-burning kitchen stove so that she could keep one hot enough to get the wrinkles out of the clothing. In the summer time, ironing must have been as uncomfortable as wintertime washing. Most clothes were ironed just shortly before we put them on.
We did not own a car. We lived a little over a mile from the Elm Grove Baptist Church. We looked like a gaggle of ducklings walking down that road every Sunday morning. Dad, then each kid, then Momma, would strike out walking to church just as soon as Momma got our outfits ironed. Each spring she would order everybody a new Easter outfit from a mail order house called National Bellas Hess. Those clothes were always reserved for Sundays. On Easter Sunday morning we would each leave for church in our finest new outfits, spaced about ten minutes apart. Momma played the piano at church and there were many times that the service was delayed until she arrived.
When school started in the fall, we each got a new outfit. Mine would be one shirt and one pair of Levis. When we came in from school, we changed into our old clothes so that Momma could launder our school outfits for the next day. I wore the same shirt and pants every day until the Christmas break. By then, they would be ready for the ‘every day’ pile. My Christmas present was a new shirt and pants for the second half of the year. And the cycle began all over again.
Momma was the primary disciplinarian. Her favorite weapon was a willow switch. Under normal conditions, Lawrence Branch, as it passed in front of our house, ran a stream about three feet wide and six inches deep. Because it caught the runoff water for a fairly large area it became a raging torrent in the rainy season. In order to carry that amount of water, it had carved itself out a creek bed that was about twelve feet wide by six feet deep. When we moved in, that extra area was covered with willow sprouts and looked like a forest. When I was caught misbehaving, Momma would send me to the creek to cut the very switch that she would use on me. I don’t recall ever getting a whipping without the admonition that, “This hurts me more than it does you”. She resisted all of my offers to trade places.
Momma loved us all, unlike Dad, who focused all of his attention and affection on Jim. While we all came in for special attention from Momma, she favored Lana. Momma believed everything that Lana told her, especially as it concerned my misbehavior at school. Much of it was true, but Lana soon learned that the results would be the same whether she told nothing but the truth or stretched it to get me sent to the creek for another switch.
By the time we moved out, that creek bed was a barren wasteland.
While the point could be argued as to whether the church building was at the geographical center, there was no doubt that the Elm Grove Baptist Church was the social center of the Pipe Creek community.
Services were held Sunday mornings and evenings with prayer meeting on Saturday night. The ‘feel good about ourselves’ attendance goal for Sunday School was always 100. About the only times that figure was ever approached were the days of the annual All Day Meeting.
Most of the community attended the services, even if only sporadically. Funerals were the only events that would completely shut down the farming process and produce a standing outside looking in the windows crowd. Along with the All Day Meeting, and the Christmas program, where all the little darlings had parts, the other big event was the Annual trip to Coney Island in Cincinnati. We would completely fill two school busses for that daylong outing.
From oral history, and pictures, I know that Charlie Hunter was the pastor during my early years. However, I was too young to remember his tenure. The only two pastors that I remember were Steve Fox and Albert Casteel.
In the early days, wintertime heat was provided by a large wood burning stove that sat about half way back on the left side of the building. Those seated closest to the stove could readily identify with the “fires of hell” sermons emanating from the pulpit. The late comers, who fanned out toward the outside wall, seldom used the coat racks that ran all the way across the back wall. Seating was in wooden folding chairs. While they started in nice neat rows their placement was at the discretion of the user. The concept of straight rows gave way to personal needs or choices. Movement of chairs during the service was as expected as the constant migration to the community water bucket and dipper at the back right hand corner of the building.
Lighting came from a series of kerosene lamps that were mounted on sconces along both side walls and chandelier type fixtures that hung over the center aisle. Each hanging fixture held several lamps.
Some time later, the system underwent major changes. A basement was dug under the side addition that held the Sunday School rooms. A forced air furnace was installed in that basement with pipes carrying the warm air to floor ducts all around the building. A Delco generating plant was also installed and the quaint old kerosene fixtures gave way to semi-modern electric lighting. The folding chairs were stacked in one of the back rooms and replaced by rows of wooden theatre seats bolted to each other in nice straight rows.
The annual All Day Meeting, with dinner on the grounds, was an especially anticipated event. On the day before the meeting, the members would gather with scythes and lawn mowers and trim the entire parking lot over to Uncle Con’s cornfield. Then they hacked down the head high horse weeds up and down and both sides of the road. That created about twice the parking area normally needed. About sixty yards or so South of the building was the eating area, the baptizing hole, and the community water pump. All of that region was tidied up and long tables were built from some of Mr. John Wolfe’s finest irregular lumber.
The Sunday morning service ran somewhat true to form. It was after the Benedictional prayer that the event took on a personality of its own. While the adults busied themselves carrying picnic baskets, tablecloths, and utensils from the boots of the old cars, the youngsters frolicked in the shortened grass. Not me. I went immediately to the side of Mrs. Viola Bowles. I never left that choice position until the prayer for thanksgiving, world peace, and good health was offered up. Then I dived into whatever she brought. I was never disappointed. The lady could cook.
- continued at Heritage & Stories 4
by Ron Robinson, son of Cleo (Hunter) Robinson
Ron Robinson's Metamora School 4th grade class
Cleo (Hunter) Robinson
Ron Robinson, son of
Cleo (Hunter) Robinson
by Ron Robinson, son of Cleo (Hunter) Robinson
From accounts given by my parents, Don and I were born in
Springfield Township East of Brookville. At that time, Dad
was working as a farm hand for Frank Bauer and my folks
lived in a house on his property. We were born at home
delivered by the family doctor. Dr. Hager drove to the farm
in a blinding snowstorm and delivered the twins for the fee
of $5.00. I guess I was $2.50 worth of that.
At the age of 16 months, Don and I contacted whooping
cough. We each lapsed into a coma. I recovered. Don did
At some point in those early years, my folks moved to
a place at the head of Walnut Fork holler. Walnut Fork was
one of the many smaller streams that fed into Pipe Creek.
It was about four miles farther upstream from where we
spent the major part of my youth. During that time, Dad worked in the woods snaking logs out of the woods with his with his team of mules named Bruce and Bryce. I will always maintain that it was strictly coincidence that we were named Donald Bruce and Ronald Bryce.
Dad broke his leg in the woods. He was riding on a log that the team was pulling when it rolled and pinned his leg underneath. Doc Hager came out and set the break and put him to bed with a series of ropes, pulleys and a sandbag to provide traction while the wound healed. Evidently the contraption looked too much like a swing to me. So I used it for one. They said that you could hear him scream all the way back to the woods. This happened when I was around two years of age.None of that is in my personal memory bank. My earliest recollections begin at age six when I started attending Metamora Grade School. One of those involved catching the school bus. The Edwards kids lived up on Pine Ridge, which was on the range of hills that separated Pipe Creek from Silver Creek. Their home was about three-quarters of a mile from the ‘house beside the road‘. They would get up, do their farm chores, eat breakfast, get dressed for school and walk down through our pasture to catch the bus. They were never late. The front door of our house was about 20 feet from the front door of the bus. I never caught it on time in my life. That was one of the patterns for my entire youth. I don’t think that we were ever on time for anything.
The years that we lived in the house beside the road were during the Second World War. Dad worked as a welder at American Kitchens in Connersville. For the war effort, they switched from building metal cabinets to making Jeeps. Dad had a 1932 Model B Ford. Because of gas rationing he could not get enough gas for his needs. Each month, when the rationing cards ran out, he would burn kerosene in his car. It belched, billowed smoke, and backfired. But it did run.
Dad worked nights. Momma spent a lot of that time awake, and sitting up, scared of things that went bump in the night. I remember her always being relieved when daylight came.
After we moved up the holler, Dad continued to work at Connersville until sometime after the war. When they went out on strike, a lot of the men, including Dad, lost their jobs. That was the last good job that he had until after I was grown and gone.
During my early school years, I did my homework by the light of a kerosene lamp. Along about the third or fourth grade, my folks got an Aladdin Lamp. I remember thinking that it must have lit up the whole world. Made me wonder how we ever saw with that dim kerosene lamp. Around 1948-49, the REA installed lines and brought Rural Electrification power to the Pipe Creek community. We put in an overhead light in the living room that consisted of a single bulb dangling from the ceiling with a pull chain switch. The 20-watt bulb lit up the room so brightly that I wondered how I was ever able to see with that Aladdin lamp.
The Model B Ford gave up the ghost and Dad parked it in that no man’s land between the yard and the barn lot. It sat there for a number of years while we walked or took the team and wagon wherever we went.
Saturday afternoon was the time to go to the store. We shopped at Leo Tebbe’s General Store in Oak Forest. It was about five miles from the holler the way the crow flies. That is the route we took with the team and wagon. A lot more time was spent taking down ‘Kentucky Gates’, and following old logging roads through private pastures, than was spent on the gravel road. Momma, and the whole family, went when she needed to pick out new feed sacks for her sewing needs. She made some fine looking dresses for the girls but I hated it when she made me shirts from the same sacks. I tried to influence the choice of sacks so that I could have my own material. It didn’t always work.
Our special treat for the week was the six pack of Pepsi-Cola. That was the one non-essential that Dad bought. We would hurry back to the holler in time to do up the evening chores before the Grand Ole Opry came on the radio. The old battery operated radio was about the size of a number two wash tub. At least half of that space was taken up by the battery. A single-wire antennae ran from the radio to a pole on the side of the outhouse about 60-70 feet away. Reception was poor at best. We heard more static than music. But it was the only game in town.
We huddled around the radio waiting for the segment
that featured our own favorite entertainer. Mine was
Ernest Tubb. Mom loved Eddy Arnold so much that
I feared that she was going to run off with him and leave
us up the creek with Dad.
Since the Pepsi was the taste treat of the week, most of
the others gulped theirs down. I took mine in tiny sips.
After everyone else’s treat was gone, I was scared to sit
mine down. So I hugged it and nursed it for the whole
The day that World War Two ended, all of the churches
and schools rang their bells. We could hear the bells from
Peppertown. When they started ringing, Momma came out
in the yard waving her arms and shouting, ‘The war is over.
The war is over.”
The war was personal to Momma. She had two brothers,
Clyde and Ern, serving in the Navy in the South Pacific
after she lost a friend, Shelby Treadway, in the attack on
It was personal on Dad’s side as well. His oldest sister, Ev
was married to Bige Hubbard. They lived out behind Oak
Forest about six miles from us. The night that their son,
Herbert, was reported as missing in action, we all piled in
the wagon and headed up to their house. Their best friends, Charlie and Sophia Sandlin, were there along with a bunch of their other neighbors. My most vivid memory of that is that my Aunt, who was tough as nails, cried like a baby all evening. About a week later, word came that Herb had stepped on a land mine and been killed instantly in a skirmish called The Battle of the Bulge.
I spent a good part of my first eighteen years at the Hubbard home. Since their children were all grown and gone before I was born, they sort of adopted me. After Uncle Bige died, around 1947, Aunt Ev and I took care of most the work on her farm. A fifty something year old woman and a ten year old boy can do a lot of work when the woman is as strong willed as Aunt Ev. (Her given name was Eva but she was always called Ev, which is pronounced like the first syllable of Evelyn.) That part of the country had an abundance of big flat rocks that could be as large as a kitchen table-top. Sometimes they were in the exact place that we needed to set a fence post. We have wrestled with a rock for half a day while Aunt Ev proclaimed, “We are not going to let this little old rock beat us. We are tougher than it is.”
At other times it was trees or misbehaving animals or rising water that were ‘not as tough as we were’. It was a series of life lesson well taught by a wiry old woman who knew that life would offer up many instances where one would need to be tougher than the situation.
My journey into the exciting world of education started in the fall of 1943. It began at Metamora Grade School which was a two story stucco building that I thought must be one of the largest in the world.
At the entrance to the building was a flight of three or four concrete steps to an entryway that featured two large glass doors. Once inside you could veer right to the wooden stairs that led to the first level of classrooms. The concrete steps to the left led to the basement, which had four rooms plus the large coal bin. One of the rooms had a hand pump where we could draw from the well. The other rooms were used mainly for indoor recreation when the weather was inclement.
The two classrooms on the first floor housed the first, second, and third grades. The room on the left, at the head of the first flight of stairs, held the first grade and half of the second grade. The other half of the second grade and all the third grade was in the room to the right. Up two more flights of stairs were the three rooms for the upper five grades. The fourth grade had its own room. The fifth and sixth grades met in the room above the first graders. The seventh and eighth grades were in the room above the third grade. A long set of folding doors separated those rooms and they were opened for assemblies that included all the grades.
The fire escape was a metal stairway attached to the outside of the building at the back of the fifth/sixth grade room. We had several fire drills each year where we had to go down that stairs. Since the first floor of the school was probably 6-8 feet above ground level and the rooms were really tall, the two-story building was at least as tall as a normal three-story building. From the top of the stairs it looked like a mile to the ground, especially when the stairs started shaking from the load of so many students on it at once. I never went down that escape without feeling like it was going to tear loose from the building and crash with me at the very top of it.
I have only two vivid memories of the fall months that I attended the first grade there. One is that Iona Wilson had to be the prettiest girl in the whole world. The second is not nearly as pleasant.The outhouses were probably 50-60 yards out behind the school. If one needed to make a call there during class time, the procedure was to raise your hand and ask to be excused. One day, during class, I got a strong urge to have a bowel movement. I was too embarrassed to raise my hand because everyone would know what I needed to do. So, I sat there a squirmed until the bell rang for recess. Then I headed for the outhouse as hard as my little legs could carry me.
At the entrance to the toilet was a privacy shield that kept anyone from seeing inside the building. I had just made the turn into that recess, when the muscles that control such things gave way and I gave birth right down my britches leg. The total embarrassment of the moment soon turned to terror. The school principal, Mr. Charles Richardson, came around the corner shortly after my accident. He stepped right in the middle of my creation.
I had gone inside the building, but I could hear him pitching a fit outside. He was threatening bodily harm to whoever pulled that prank. When he got inside and saw that the incident was not the tomfoolery of one of the older boys, but a accident of a first grader frightened out of him mind, his demeanor instantly changed from disciplinarian to comforter. He wiped my tears with his handkerchief and set about helping me get cleaned up. It was an act of compassion that won him a lifetime of admiration on my part.
At the Christmas break, we moved to the Terry School district. Terry School was out in the country. It was a one-room school house on a couple of acres of land on the gravel road that connected Oak Forest with Pipe Creek. The school was surrounded on three sides by a tomato patch owned by Arnold Pflum. Mr. Pflum sold tomatoes to the cannery. Everyone in school kept a salt shaker in their desk. Those tomatoes sure went well with our Spam sandwiches for lunch. Had my first schoolboy crush in the first grade. Lucille Shaffer, a fellow first grader, won my heart. In the second grade, she got nosed out by the new schoolmarm, Mae Pate. At Christmas break of the second grade we moved back into the Metamora School District and I rejoined the group that would be part of my life through high school.
Through the first eight years of my life, my best friend was Herbert Hunter. Herbie and I ate our sack lunches together every school day. We would hurry through our lunch so that we could get to the chore of cleaning blackboard erasers. The school had a machine for that purpose. It had a large round brush that was rotated by turning an exterior crank. Herbie loved to put the chalk-laden erasers in the top and watch them come out the bottom fresh and clean. Herbie would run to one classroom and get all the erasers. We would clean them and he would take them back. He wouldn’t slow down until he had gathered, and cleaned, the erasers from each of the five classrooms. Herbie died in the fall of my third grade year and the joy went out of cleaning erasers..Had my third crush in the third grade. Marcella Nussbaumer.
That lasted until the fourth grade.
Teacher Dora Larabee stole my
heart the first day of school. Had
Mrs. Faye Bell for a teacher in the
fifth and sixth grades. That put a
stop to the crushes on teachers.
Got the only paddling that I had in
twelve school years during my fifth
grade. At the start of classes in
the morning and noon, we all lined
up in two rows on the outside
sidewalk and marched into the
building. During that lineup,
Duane Hunter was exercising a
bit of verbal abuse on me and
I responded with an expletive just as Mrs. Bell walked up behind me. When we got in the classroom, she called principal, William Metcalf, in for a conference. After their chat he invited me up to the front of the room to grab my ankles while he applied the ‘board of education’ to the seat of my britches.
By the fifth grade, sports had become a large part of our lives. Nearly all the boys, and a lot of the girls, were very active in fast pitch softball. The school team was made up primarily of seventh and eighth graders. The fifth and sixth grade team played on a smaller diamond out near the end of the playground. We were like the minor leagues getting our training for the day that we would get to play in front of the crowds.
Metamora had a tremendous run of good players. For something like fifteen years, which included the two years that I played, we were undefeated by any other grade school team. One game that stands out was our eighth grade game when we hosted Fairfield. They came to bat in the top of the first inning. Wayne Hunter struck out three in a row. In the bottom of the first we scored 56 runs. When they came up in the top of the second, Wayne fanned three in a row again. They got on their bus and went home.
That year, a new teacher named Everett Potts came to replace the retiring Mrs. Bell. Mr. Potts started a basketball team. We had never seen a basketball. We played softball all year long. Our only place to practice was outside where Mr. Potts put up a goal on a post. Our first game was at Blooming Grove. That was the first time we had ever been in a gym or seen a basketball that didn‘t have mud on it. It was some experience. Blooming Grove was the defending county champs. They beat us 53-3.Later that year, Mr. Potts was called back into the Army. He was replaced by Cecil Tague, who became our new coach.
Later in the year we played at Blooming Grove again. Mr. Tague had us play a slow down game. We lost that one 12-9. At the end of the season we entered the Franklin County tournament for the first time. The tourney was played in the Springfield gym. The first game we drew Blooming Grove. We beat them 26-23. That was one happy bunch of Metamora Golden Hawks.
Oh, yeah, I about forgot. We had cheerleaders. One of them was Rhoda Sandlin. I lost track of numbers after Mrs. Larabee, so I’m not sure which number Rhoda was on the crush list. I did spend enough time studying to graduate with the group in the spring of 1951.
by Ron Robinson
October 21, 2007
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