Many Remember Childhood Games
By ERNEST JONES Herald-Press Staff Writer
Seen any ash hoppers lately? - Or Guice harrows? Or poke bonnets?
They were common when many senior citizens today were children.
Ash hoppers stood in the backyard near the curbed well with its grass rope, pulley and zinc bucket.
Ashes from the fireplace and kitchen stove were damped at intervals into the hopper, which was constructed of slats that came together at the bottom in a V inside a sloped trough,
When ashes filled the V-shaped hopper (it stood off the ground on legs), water from the well was poured into the hopper, soaking through the ash into the trough which emptied into a crock. What came out of the hopper was lye that would dissolve meat.
Lard obtained from home hog slaughtering was placed in a black washpot in which the lard had been rendered. Lye was poured into the pot over a chunk fire. When the mixture cooled, a thick topping of soap would harden in the pot. This then was sliced into bars and used to wash clothes and dishes.
When children were allowed to visit a town, they were treated to such delicacies as stick candy, sardines, salmon, sausage that came in large cans and was sold in links, along with oranges and apples.
A Guice harrow was a spring device for cultivating small row crops. Those harrows were made only at Grapeland by the inventor, who had a shop there. Each harrow had two sets of spring-steel curved tings, like a kitchen fork, with the sets adjustable so that the harrow could be used on both sides of a row of small corn or cotton at the same time. The harrow was pulled by a pony or mule.
Another cultivator was the Georgia stock, which had a central "tongue" and heel sweeps of varying lengths, interchangeable. It was a one- horse plow.
The Kelly turning plow, made in Longview, was used to "break" and "bed" land each spring.
Poke bonnets were worn on the farm by all women and girls. They had cardboard or starch-stiffened visors curving down around the face, a tucked crown to go over a "pompadored" coif, and a tucked tail piece. Women wore them to protect creamy complexions such as seldom now are seen.
For dress wear, women had hats of all shapes and decor, some with flowers or even bird- shaped appendages. They were made in millinery shops in Palestine and other sizable cities.
Women's styles 60 to 70 years ago usually were tightly form- fitting over corsets laced until the wearer's waist was wasp- slender. Girls needed help of mothers or sisters to achieve maximum waist lacing. They must have suffered mightily for their fashionable contours.
Boys and men wore "sailor" straws in summer and high celluloid collars. Some stiff collars were turned up all around except the tips in front. Ties were called "cravats" and came both in bows and "four- in-hand."
Men and women wore button shoes and men wore sultry vests, but Panama hats and seersucker suits were in cost- reach of most young dandles.
Swaggering young buckaroos carried gold- knobbed canes, not because they were lame but as swagger sticks. They were addicted to breezy airs and ridiculously copycat speech, never dropping a "g" endin' a word while in "polite" company.
It was an age of chivalry coming on the heels of a sometimes brutal and stern pioneer century. Great wealth had filtered down to county town nabobs, who lost no opportunity to display affluence. Poverty and misery prevailed all around sumptuous and imposing premises. And in the country, few houses had known paint.
Jailbird labor helped pave Palestine streets.
Peddlers with hacks filled with goods hawked their wares in town and country. When a beef was killed in the country, it was bartered around the neighborhood.
Berrying and mayhaw picking were favorite springtime excursions.
Fruit and vegetables were grown around here and seldom were imported.
Flour and coffee were the main food imports. They came cheap, coffee from barrels in the bean (Peaberry was our staple at home), and flour in large sacks.
What's a "cob doll?" That's what young girls played with in the country. The two girls at our house made cob dolls from corn cobs which they dresses out in discarded pieces from old clothes into boy and girl dolls. They fitted out a doll playhouse in the barn loft and, on idle days, spent hours playing up there. Using their dolls as dummies, they staged puppet shows for their own amusement. Each doll had its own "voice" in an amazing variety.
When I'd climb the barn ladder to listen in, my fingers got stepped on in reprisal.
Of such things were what some call "The good, old days of yore."
In towns, the day's top attractions were the arrivals and departures of passenger trains. Around "train time," the Palestine station was a milling beehive. The long station platform would be filled when a train climbing up from Gum Spring whistled its approach.
President Franklin D. Rossevelt's special train came in about 4 one morning. Half the town turned out, even though the President was asleep.