The Literary Corner: Renegade Writers Guild

Published 9:14 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

“Tobacco as We Knew It”

By Gaye Hoots

We grew tobacco for most of the years I lived at home. Before we moved to Advance, the Slater family who lived on the Marchmont property helped us. They were a large family of mostly boys. Having other kids our age helped to make the work less of a drudge. The work was backbreaking at times. We planted, replanted, suckered, dusted for worms, picked, tied it to dry, cured, sorted, and wrapped it for the market.

After we moved, the Peebles family moved into a house on that property. There were two girls in this family close to my age and boys close to my brother’s age. Other families helped from time to time including the Cornatzer family, Clyde Sidden, and others hired by the day. Everyone did the same work, but the women and kids did most of it. My father prepared the soil for the planting, and the men did most of the hanging of the tobacco into the barn. I did assist with this a few times. The men stayed with the tobacco overnight at the tobacco barns to keep the fires going. I do remember staying with my grandfather a time or two before I was old enough to be of any help. He roasted corn and potatoes in the fire. I thought this was great fun.

My dad usually bought sandwiches and drinks for lunch. He fed everyone who helped and usually brought a watermelon or snacks by in the afternoon. As we worked we kept up a light banter with the other workers. During tobacco season, we became an extended family. The winter time gave us relief from the grueling work. One other chore I had, in addition to other farm chores, was milking. I did this twice a day, every day, all year long.

By the time I graduated from high school, Reynolds Tobacco Company employed several of my relatives and many in the Advance community. I had friends who started working at Reynolds out of high school and retired from there. Reynolds paid better than other jobs did, so this was the most desirable job available without a college education. Reynolds also employed many with college educations in management including a few of my relatives.

No one in my immediate family smoked at that time. A few of my uncles did. Everyone probably tried cigarettes as a kid. Two draws told me I did not enjoy smoking. My younger brother began smoking as a teen. He continued to smoke until he had emphysema in his late fifties. Giving them up was very difficult for him.

My grandfather had always advised against the use of tobacco. We all know the danger by now.

What was portrayed in the movies and on TV by attractive adults later became the target of law suits. The corporation that hired and often mentored young adults was broken up and, like other businesses, it steadily decreased benefits to employees.

When the business was restructured, those who had stayed with the company most of their working years and invested in tobacco stocks became millionaires. The ones who didn’t still had a healthy retirement payment each month until death.

“Next Door Neighbor”

By Kevin F. Wishon

Upon moving to Mocksville, I suddenly had a neighbor across the fence from me for the first time in my life. Growing up, the closest neighbor I ever had was a half a block away. When I moved, I was in my twenties and busy with a career. I did not want to interrupt my life to have a daily chat regularly. Despite my initial misgivings, my neighbor turned out to be more of a joy and benefit than I ever imagined.

She was around eighty years in age (I never asked) and had more energy than many people younger than her. I couldn’t help but be impressed with her diligence in taking care of housework both inside and out. She mowed regularly and took pride in taking care her home. Additionally, she still drove, making regular trips to Mocksville to take care of errands and to enjoy an occasional meal of Chinese food.

As time passed, we occasionally had chats over the fence about family, life, and current issues. She always surprised me with her knowledge of current events, and I found I typically agreed with her balanced view on many topics. She was nothing like the interfering, annoying neighbors I had imagined before arriving. Instead, I grew to enjoy having her nearby and benefitted from her keen awareness of activity in the neighborhood. Very little ever happened that she didn’t notice, and with my long hours away from home, I appreciated her keeping watch.

It was this sharp awareness that made me laugh when she frantically called to me from across the fence line early, one Saturday morning during fall.  “Where did they go?” she asked. “Where did what go?” I replied. “The leaves that were under your maple tree; there were leaves all over the ground under that tree when I went to bed last night. This morning, when I got up, they were gone!” I was tempted to feign not knowing what had happened to the leaves, but my grin betrayed me. Once I stopped laughing, I explained how I raked and disposed of the leaves just before midnight. “But how could you see what you were doing?” she asked. “Good eyesight in the dark and the dim lighting from your exterior security light was all I needed to see.” The dubious expression on her face was priceless.

Years passed, and sadly, my neighbor eventually passed away. She crushed many of my assumptions about neighbors and older people, not so much by words, but by her actions. Occasionally, when I walk outside, I think it would be nice to see her standing by the fence one more time. I think I’d set aside anything I had to do and chat with her for the rest of the day.

“The Time Machine”

By Marie Craig

Think back to February 1993.  Where were you, and what were you doing then? Who was special to you?  What did Davie County look like then?

I can’t answer the first questions, but I can the last one.  Download the app Google Earth.  Find Davie County.  Then look at the small symbols at the top left.  Find the one that looks like an alarm clock with an arrow draped over it.  That’s your time machine.  Slide the arrow to different dates to see what our county looked like from the sky.

The earliest date is 1993, which is when satellite images became used by citizens instead of just the military.  Photos weren’t as clear back then as now, but you can still see lots of buildings and roads that you’ll recognize.  The aerial views in the winter are the clearest, with leaves off the trees.

Slide the arrow all the way to the left, and you’ll have a photo of February 1993.  As you zoom in and move the map around, you’ll discover that there’s no Lowes, new Wal-Mart, or housing sections such as Sterling Place, New Hampshire Court, Mollie Road, or Kinderton.  There is no Food Lion or other stores near the junction of 601 and 64, no Foster Drug or doctor offices on 601, no senior center, no Kinderton businesses, no Davidson College, or shopping center next to the intersection of 801 and 158.

Things you’ll see that are now gone are the dress factory, Ford dealership, the four oaks on the square, and the Rosenwald school attached to other school buildings on Campbell Road.  The barns near the Yadkin River are still just barns.  Cooleemee still has its factory intact but no cars parked there.

Not many cars are parked at any of these structures.  The old Wal-Mart didn’t have many cars, but Millers did.  There are shadows pointing northwest, so it’s probably before noon.  Deep research of what time the sun rose back then and angle of shadows could give us even more data.  The sun rose about 7 am, so this is probably 9 or 10 am.

One neat feature is that you can mark maps and save them.  In Google Maps, click the menu (three parallel horizontal lines in the top left) and click “Your Places.”  Then click “Maps.”  Then click “Create Map.”  Mark the spots and write notes.  You’ll be able to see this in Google Earth and Google Maps.  For example, in your family history research, you could put a marker and a note about where your grandparents and other ancestors lived.  (Google Maps does not have the feature of going back in time.)

The motto of a photography studio was “Time Marches On until the Magic of the Camera Commands HALT!” February 1993 was halted for us to study and remember Davie County 24 years ago.