Friday, September 6, 2013

~Customs of The Country~Porch Swings,Stories,Tall Tales & Haints~

                 My Mother's Mom_ Ms.Albertine_aka_"Big Mama"_My Grandmother

                         At her home on College Hill, next door to Mary Allen College(1871)

             My Dad's Mom_Ms.Lola_My Grandmother "Cherokee Tribe Descendant"
The History of your Family can be found in your Family Albums of yesteryear! Ever notice how many pictures were taken on the front porch swing? The front porch swing was always the meeting place of family and friends. Swings can be traced to prehistoric times_comes from Latin porticus and the Greek portico_which described a cathedral's vestibule,where worshippers gathered to socialize after church services.
Porch swings first appeared in Early America in the 18th century.It was another 100 years before they became really popular.The diverse cultures and traditions of early Americans  led to a blend of various architectural styles_which evolved into what became "The Front Porch", a game room of sorts. I remember songs, games,conversations,neighbors dropping by,morning coffee chats,etc. "The Swing" was the most popular furnishing _and it was "magical","romantic" and peaceful"!

Who doesn't love a Swing? It's a great way to relieve the pressures of today's lifestyle, carefree time_ NO TECHNOLOGY REQUIRED_a time to connect with the Universe or others! Speaking of which, join me for....

When I decide to write on this subject, I "interviewed" my Mother (she's in her 80s) and my oldest Brother & my Sister! I challenged them to remember_fond memories of growing up in deep East Texas in the late 40s,50s and 60s. What fun we had!
Here's a couple:
My Grandmother was enjoying her regular evening on the front porch swing_this would have been in the 30s during the Great Depression. A couple came driving down Hwy 19._which ran in front of her home & was the main route in & out of Crockett.They stopped & asked her where they could get some food.She told them she didn't know of any dining places but they were welcome to have some of her supper.They came in ate_gave her a $20 bill for her kindness and headed towards Palestine,Texas. About 30 minutes later,while again on the front porch swing, the Crockett Police stopped to ask if she'd seen a couple come through_described them to her_she said well I just fed a couple like that.He told my Grandmother that she had just fed...

Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow who'd robbed a bank in Franklin,Texas earlier that day.An APB was out for their arrest! My Big Mama was floored!

A little history about my hometown_

Alone those same lines_ the story was told how my Great,Great
Grandmother fed and made a sack lunch for "Scarface"when he passed through Crockett in the 20s_all while he waited on the steps of the front porch. Crockett was a stop off place for folks "riding the rails"during this time. The Houston & Great Northern Railroad was built throughout the county in 1872 bringing new settlers as well as notorious criminals passing through!

There were many "WWII stories" shared by my Dad. He served in the Navy as a Steward to the Admirals_in other words he cooked specifically for this rank.African-Americans were most always Cooks_his position was considered Prime as he didn't do Mess-Halls...go figure! Anyway,when Pearl Harbor was bombed he was Shipmates with Decorated Doris"Dorian Miller"_who was a Steward as well.My mother has several photos of them as they were pals!..he was from Waco & Dad from Crockett_so they were Texas Guys!

My Big Mama did what was called_"take -in-washing-and -ironing".On this particular day my mother said she & my uncle were playing in the back yard while Big Mama washed & hung out clothes on the line. A familiar man walked up...everybody knew him in town & that he was what you called a little off as in a mental patient.He told Big Mama that he had been asked to take the note he held to somebody's house_BUT he could not read or write.He'd walked about 2.5 miles from Downtown Crockett and everyone kept telling & pointing which house to carry the note to...and so on,& so on. Big Mama took the note,read it to herself _and told him he had the right house. He was overjoyed that he'd found the right house!After the man left,Big Mama said it was a shame to do a person of his state like that_as she read the note to them. It said:"READ THIS NOTE.KEEP THIS FOOL GOING". That is so wrong on many levels.

A true-story that I reminded my Brother of_ Jr was always looking for stuff to use as practice target with his BB-Gun.About three houses down from us lived a man named Willis Blackshear.He would be what's today described as a homeless man in attire_wearing many layers of clothing ,talking to himself,he had what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Army. He always had  many empty cans lined up on his front porch,along side the house,etc.Well,in my Brothers quest to find something to shoot at_he picked up one of those cans....which unknown to him was filled with urine.He ran home smelling really bad,had to take a bath,etc...from then on I teased him by calling him_"Willis Blackshear's Pee"!

A couple of others...On Sunday's after Church & Dinner_we'd have Dessert on the front porch. It never failed Pastors & other folks would seem to appear when it was Dessert Time.I remember_when we saw them coming_we'd say_"let's go hide the food"! If we didn't they'd eat us out of house & home,especially the Pastors!


There were soooooooooo many of these_NOT enough space or time.But here's an overview of some of my favorites.

The area now known as Houston County was a stronghold of the Alabama-Coushatta, Cherokee, and Tejas Indians. My Dad's mom was Native American(Cherokee). If you sat on the
front porch swing late evening,there was a "walking light" that circled the area directly across the pasture from Big Mama. There was NO person just the light. Stowe Lumber company had been built on this Native American Burial site...many said it was the "SPIRITS WALKING"!!! That lumber company
mysteriously burned to the ground one day.

My Dad showed us a very large tree that in the late evening from Big Mama's porch you could see smoke coming from the top.He said an African-American man had been HUNG from that tree_and it was his Spirit in the form of smoke!

Dad would always tell the story of how he took my second brother to Lufkin(30+miles or so) for school clothes one year.They had to buy him clothes for"husky boys",Crockett
stores did not carry that size. So,they went shopping,stopped for food on the way there,ate again while there & stopped at a food place on the way back. He said my Brother gained weight from  the time they purchased the clothes in Lufkin_back to Crockett_AND could NOT wear the clothes he'd just bought!!!!

For those of YOU_that are NOT familiar with this term_it is a variant of haunt "Chiefly Southern U.S..A ghost or other supernatural being."

Many of the photos from my childhood show Big Mama's porch painted a blue color. I have learned that it was painted Blue as in "Haint Blue " for a reason. This paint color originated in the deep South."The original Haint Blue creators were descendants of African slaves who worked on rice plantations in South Carolina and Georgia.They kept alive the traditions, stories, and beliefs of their ancestors, including a fear of haints." Here's an interesting read on the subject:

But,Of Course....Martha Stewart is in on the trend to use this color....

Recently, it's been used to repel bugs.....oh and The Haints!

If my memory serves me right,NOT_only did my grandmother re-painted every Spring but neighbors did as well_Aunt Waymon,Mrs Garrett,Uncle Be-Bop,Uncle Mutt,etc..They also had a tradition of coming for an early morning visit with their coffee cup in hand_from across the street...I can still see that!

Now,that you know about haints & some history_here's a  story my mother told me_

Seems town talk was buzzing about the many sightings of
"The Headless Man"! Strange stories about people having car &"wagon accidents"(yes people drove wagons_I rode in one with my grandfather), people saw him looking in windows,etc. The stories got so strong that Big Mama would close her home up early evening,pack them an overnight bag/food,etc...then leave to spend the night with relatives! When the stories died down some they started sleeping at home.


We played Chinese Checkers_
Dominoes,Cards, jump rope in the front yard,my Grandmother & I had "heart-to-heart talks",always with a glass of iced tea with her mint that grew in a pot on the porch & Teacakes(YUM),the family conversations_ my sister remembers Big Mama people watching & knowing exactly what they would do_like the boy that walked to the grocery store most days for ice cream & would come back with a bag of ice cream dripping all over his shirt..she said just all nasty!!! And the music of Billy Holiday,Billy Eckstine or Classical music always playing on the "Victrola"! 

Those are some realllllllly great memories.This little project had us all smiling & laughing _like Big Mama who couldn't tell a funny story without laughing & crying at the same time(she was so tickled). That is why_one of the first things I did when we moved to Aaron's Hilltop Farm was to install _the institution of  "THE FRONT PORCH SWING" ...and the stories,tall tales, & haints live on! Come sit a spell....let's it's "the custom of the country"_ANY SEASON......

 "What are your favorite "Front Porch" stories?

Swingin'& Sippin',
The Sage Book Whisperer ~


Maricia said...

I remember so much about the front porch, but one of my favorite memories is playing jacks with my friends. We could play all day long. Somehow we played with 5 jacks and played up to our 12's. That was so much fun!

The Sage Book Whisperer said...

Thank You,Soror!I forgot to mention JACKS & MARBLES!I played Jack's fairly well_but I was a Mean Machine in Marbles,I even collected the "Tiger Eye Marbles"

Texas K said...

I remember my grandmother, my aunts, and her cousins would come over and sit in the evenings and talk, talk, and always lots of laughter. When my grandmother didn't have company we sit on the porch or on the steps below the porch and we would play games like jacks, rock teacher, and simon said. We never feared drive-by shootings. Everyone knew each other and they too sat on their porches as well. It was if the village elders would share grown folk talk and kept an eye on the kids in the neighbor as we played. Those were the days. Thanks for bring those memories back to me Sage Whisperer!

The Sage Book Whisperer said...

Thank-you Texas K! I'm glad it took you back to an innocent time. Now that sounds like the kinda fun we had as well.Boy! We didn't know that we had it so gooooooood! As_those are NOT the "customs of the country" NOW!