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JoLee Gregory Spears

This page was updated September 13, 2005

 

Fort Mitchell — Childhood Memories of

Bernita Price Crowder, March 2003

 

Thinking back as a child, Fort Mitchell brings such special memories. As children, black or white, we felt loved, secure, and the love of friends.

Times weren't always easy. Our parents worked long, hard hours to keep a roof over our heads and food for our tummies. Children had their chores too, some more than others. We learned to live simple lives with a lot of "make do's." The depression made things even harder, but the whole area - being kind people as well as friends, we shared. We shared fruits, vegetables, watermelons, cantaloupes. One man — Mr. Walker — fed us kids burlap bags and more bags of watermelons and cantaloupes. Families lived off their farms, gardens and animal produce as much as possible.

The kids played together, black and white, sharing in our playhouses, many of these made in the stacked ties beside the railroad, in our croquet games, in our hide-and-seek, in our jump-rope, in our "Annie-over" (sometimes called Ante-over) ball tossing and any other made-up fun we could think of.

Our greatest excitement was the train coming through early morning, and around nine o’clock we would run to the depot to see our post master, Mr. Howard Fore, sort the mail, hoping our family would have mail — a big treat for us.

There were four churches in our community. One black church and three other denominations. We usually ended up at the one closest to us for there was little transportation available. Everyone tried to get to Revival at any church. Also, "Homecoming" meant good food and great preaching. The kids were probably more interested in the food. It was also a good time for the adults to discuss the area news while eating all the good stuff.

Saturday afternoons were the end of the rushed farm work, saw mill hours, black smith end-of-the week. The five stores were the meeting places for the men to gather and chat. At one time Bayard Spencer had a great place in front of his store steps where the men had great marble games, with whoops, hollers and much laughter. Another wonderful place was across the road in front of Jack Davis's store, beside Anthony Saunders' wood pile, for the men's horse shoe game. - that also with a lot of merry sounds. On winter nights were "Set-Back" card games at Walter Spencer's store where the men had fun and the women finished their days work and cared for the children at home. Christmastime meant fire works at night around the depot where the older children spent their pennies to buy and shoot fire crackers, roman candles, sparklers, etc. From my window I thought that was the greatest sight. We even had, for one winter, Saturday night black and white movies in the old unused Wiley Davis Store. A man, wife and a boy spent the winter upstairs over the store and gave us a big touch of excitement. We had no way to get to a real theater.

School was a nice walk in the heat or cold from any distance we lived. Two grades to each room. After several years Mr. Eddie Spencer and Tom Bigger ran buses through muddy roads to get the kids to school. There was a black school in the village which later moved nearer to Route 360. Finally they had a bus that went to Charlotte County and the white kids went to Victoria [high school].

My memory of grade-school teachers were Miss Smith, Bertie Yates, Ruth Townsend Fears, Mr. Fears and Mildred Shaw — all loved and respected.

Sam Bayne's sawmill, and later Tom Baugh's sawmill, supplied jobs for some of the people.

There was even a ball game on Saturday afternoons in summer. The one I remember was on land donated by Clarence Parrish. For me, it was for enjoying the crowd as I never had any concept of what the players were doing. My dad, Walter Price, thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Chiggars and ticks were a part of our life - berry picking time brought out the best of them.

At one time Mr. Bayard Spencer and Wiley Davis sold coffins. If a family member needed one, they were kept in their home in their coffin with neighbors sitting up with them at night until the funeral. That's a somber thought, so let's move on.

There were "sheep stews" cooked in the area at times. I guess to raise money for some purpose. People enjoyed them very much. I never could decide I wanted a taste, but the people were great to talk to.

Once in awhile there was a quilting bee, not something I was good at, but there were some great stitchers in the area.

My heartache was shipping the live stock to Richmond for sale. I didn't want them to go. As kids we would wait by the pen until the freight train took them away.

For a couple of hours early Saturday nights, Lewis Davis would use his barber chair and clippers to improve the looks of the residents.

Tommy Hudson had a machine repair shop in back of his house with a very deep well-cleaned ditch underneath that ran beside the road. That was a very interesting place for kids to walk in. One time the kids dug out a swimming hole on Bayard Spencer's branch. It was red, muddy water, not fit for a pig to be in, but we were excited. My first trip in, and last, was against my mother's wishes. I had a fall off an old inner tube with a swallow of the red, muddy junk.

As Linard Bayne says, "Fort Mitchell is still there, but the people are gone." To us that lived there, it will always be HOME, a very special loved place in our minds and hearts and such wonderful people that we shared our lives with.

- Bernita Price Crowder, 2003


Copyright 2000 JoLee Gregory Spears