Prepared by Hugh Keedy and Jessie Bennett
Co-directors: Bethesda Museum
Annie Lou McCord
Jessie: "Baney" was our school bus driver and still is, for how many years?]
This will be 50 years. Half a century, so I ought to quit on them.
My home place
I was actually born in Maury county. My mother went visiting and I happened to be born at her sister's house. My parents were living in Bethesda at the time in the old Steele place.
I still live in the old Steele home. Originally my great-great-grandaddy got this land as a land grant. It was really the Steele home then. They had so many children that they built a big home. It has been in the family ever since. It was put up for sale and my grandaddy bought it. I don't know what year it was that they bought it, but the house was built before the Civil War.
I have lived there all my life, 68 years. This is home to me. With the home, I have 170 acres. At one time, we used to row crop but it got to where you didn't make any money on it. So, we went into the cattle business. We have been in the cattle business ever since and have done very well. I don't row crop any more--just fool with cattle.
When I was young we raised most of our food. We milked cows for approximately 30 years. My mother got to where she couldn't milk and my daddy got to where he couldn't get them up. We just finally quit and went to beef cattle. We had a good garden and raised corn and wheat. As the years go by we have slacked off of things like that. We still have our own garden. We used to milk cows and sell milk and we had chickens and sold eggs.
I went to school for twelve years at the Bethesda school. When I first started to school we didn't have busses so most people either rode a pony or horse. I rode a pony for years, four or five, and finally got me a bicycle and then rode a bicycle back and forth to school until we started operating these busses in 1945. They didn't have busses then. When they finally decided to operate the PTA busses, Mr. Lane drove one of them and I drove as a substitute some.
I grew up here in Bethesda and stayed. After graduation from school I started driving this school bus and have been on it ever since, except for the two years in the service. We married in 1951. I went in the service in 1952 and came out in 1954. I stayed six months in California basic training and went to Alaska for 18 months, my wife and I. I liked Anchorage fine, but it wasn't modern like it is today. The weather was pretty cool. We have a daughter who was born there; she is Jane(???) Bond Giles now.
I attended Bethesda Presbyterian church and used to go down there every morning to start a fire in the church. The only thing we had then was old wood stoves. I've been doing that off and on all my life. I have been in the church since I was 12 years old. I was accepted by Christ then, and when I was about 21 they elected me an officer in the church. I am an elder in the Bethesda Presbyterian church and also write the minutes and keep a record of what happens in the church--keep a session book of it.
I remember Bro. W.L. Smith, our preacher at the Presbyterian church in the early forties. [Jessie: I was about ten or twelve years old.] He had a little shocking thing that you would hold. Eight or ten people would each one hold that shocking machine, and it would shock us all the way around. [Jessie: he had a little wire and a little box; the electricity would go through each one. We thought it was exciting when it went through our hands.] Some people could take more than the rest of us. Jim Eggerson(???) could take more than you could, Jessie.
[Jessie: He carried around in his pocket a little miniature black dog and white dog that were mounted on small magnets. He used the magnets to make the dogs move and do tricks for the kids. Hugh: I remember having a set of those myself as a kid; I haven't thought of them in years.]
[Jessie: he had a little trailer behind his rumble seat car, and he would go around the community to pick up everybody for Sunday school. He lived in Bethesda and was the full time. Back then they did visiting when anybody was sick; I remember him coming up to momma's and sitting with the sick, or he would carry them to the doctor.] He had two churches, the Bethesda church and the New Hope church. They paid him a pretty good salary, we thought, at that time. I was trying to think what we did pay him; probably two or three thousand dollars a year each. That was a pretty good salary at that time. We furnished a house to live in in Bethesda, right across from the old Dr. Core place. [It was torn down in about 1954 and a new preacher residence built for the church on the same site.] Cliff McCay(???) came here and said he would stay with us two or three years if we would tear the old house down and build a new modern house. He said in the long run it would help in getting a new preacher. But, from then on prices have raisen and we have had only one preacher, Mr. Ralston(???), stay here for a while. At present to have a pastor live here like we used to would cost us about $30,000 a year, I guess.
Working in the Bethesda store
As a boy, I didn't have too much responsibility. I helped cut the wood and get the wood in for the fireplaces and wood stove. I used to work at the grocery store at Bethesda. When I worked down there for four or five years for Mr. Ira Waddey I was general flunky for everything. That's where I got a little extra income. At that time people came in with orders. We just had to take the paper and fill the order. We didn't have typewriters or adding machines and stuff like that. We added it on a piece of paper, how much groceries and stuff they bought.
They went to Nashville on Tuesday and Friday to get stock for the store. At that time stuff was rationed to the Bethesda store [during World War II]. I used to help unload the truck when it came in at night from Nashville. A lot of sugar was rationed, I very well remember at this time. People would come in and bust the sacks and take five pounds and carry it to the car. You never know where the sugar all went to until you got ready to count up the groceries at night. A man or woman might say, "I got five or ten pounds of sugar." They would charge her for it. People were honest those days more than they are now.
We had gas pumps. Gas was 18 cents a gallon and was rationed. We had gas ration stamps. You you might get five gallons for a stamp or ten gallons for a stamp. You had to purchase those stamps every month from the ration board in Franklin. Most farmers got most of the gas they wanted to operate with. Farmers didn't have many tractors in that day; most of them used horses or mules. Of course, tractors have taken over and they have done away with the mules. [The Ford 8N tractors were produced right after the war, and many are still in use.]
When stock came in from Nashville there were always eight or ten men there to help unload. They set things in the stockroom and then as they were needed it was put on the shelf. There was no bulk items then. We sold a lot of dairy, horse, and mule feed in hundred pound sacks. At the time I was working in the store, people in the community didn't have refrigerators. Very few had electricity.
I used to go in to Franklin and buy 2000 pounds of ice in 300 pound blocks and bring them back to Bethesda. People would come and get ice for their weekend. We kept it in what we called an icehouse, with sawdust in it to keep the ice from melting. It was right by the store and was well insulated.
At school we had what we called regular stalls to keep our ponies in. Each person had their own stall. We had to build a stall and have it ready for the pony to be left there. We would leave him all day and go get him and come home that afternoon. I never did take any feed for him; they just had to do without until we got back home. It was the same way with water. Some of them may have given their pony water, but there wasn't any running water down where the stables were.
For the water we got to drink, we used to go to a well out there that was pumped with a pump. The water would come through a metal pipe that had holes bored in it. The pipe was horizontal and about ten or twelve feet long. About 10 or 15 could drink at one time. Someone would pump and the pressure would push the water out. We used to make our own paper cups, too. They didn't have plastic cups then. The water that you didn't drink would go down into a concrete trough and out on the yard on the ground. We had plenty of water at that time. The pump was located on the west side of Bethesda school, as you went in the west door.
When the school burned the smaller children had to go to churches. We had to finish up at the Methodist church, where the lodge is now. We stayed in the Sunday school rooms until we got the new school building. The high school went down on the Bethesda Road, in a house across from Walter Taylor's. That was the school at one time until they got the new school building.
I remember when the school burned. I wasn't there; I was at home. It was caused by a Delco system that caught fire that night. There was a program at school the evening before. The school was heated at that time with a coal furnace. That had radiators in each room. Somebody would go up there each morning at four o'clock and start up a fire. The janitor would--get it pretty warm. It wasn't like today. No air conditioning at all.
The Bethesda busses
There were two busses. One covered Flat Creek and one covered around Bakerville(???). You had to pay to ride. I don't know how much but it was probably very little. [Jessie: I think I have heard a dollar a month.] They were made like a cracker box, a box built on a regular truck chassis. The county started operating their busses in 1945 and I started driving in 1946. I stayed with it until 1952, went to the army and stayed two years, and came back and started back driving. So, with my army time and my bus time I have 50 years at the end of this year.
At that time we had very small busses, but now we have big All American busses, all carrying 84 passenger. The old busses didn't haul but 36. The roads have been changed here. All roads used to be dirt; all are now highway. People have migrated and come in here, and it just takes bigger schools. I drove a route in Bethesda 47 years, and then left there and went to Oakview because I already had a route there. I've been down there two or three years.
On a typical driving day I usually leave home at 6:45 AM and get back at 8:15. It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to run my route. Then I am free till that afternoon until 2:30. I go back and carry students home and come back to my home. In between times I do odd jobs on the farm. I drove for the Bethesda School Dragon team for a long time. When they closed the Bethesda high school down and went to Page, another driver and I rotated in taking field trips. I'm still driving field trips and basketball trips at night now. About the longest trip is to Carthage, Lawrenceburg, and Pulaski at the present time. I never did overnight trips.
Discipline problems are worse now than they used to be. Most mothers and fathers are working and they don't discipline children like they did back in 1946 or 1956 or 1960. I can't remember many problems I've had. I got the name of being a mean driver and strict, but in the long run they appreciate it. My bus rules: I don't let them write or draw on the windows, or let them eat on the bus. I try to make them sit down and stay in their seats. No scuffling or fighting at all is allowed on the bus. If they start, I put them on the front seat and make them ride for a week. I do my own discipline because I find it is better than carrying them to the principal. If a problem arises, I just stop the bus in the road and say, "Ok, you boys will have to come to the front seat and ride for a week." Most children don't like to ride on the front seat.
On the team's bus trips I would have approximately 15 girls and 15 boys, the cheerleaders, and girls' coach and the boys' coach. Most times the principal went with us as it was required at that time for the principal to go. We have been out many a night and come in at one o'clock with ice on the ground or snow on the ground. We often got caught out but we were very fortunate; we never had a wreck. On the way back most times we would stop, if we were going south, at Stan's restaurant over at Spring Hill [Jessie: that was a treat.] That was a treat for the children because they didn't get to go like they do now.
They were very well behaved on the trips. I had no problems with the boys and girls at all. [With the coaches and principal there, they had to be.] And they respected the driver, too. It is a little bit different today, but they don't give me any trouble today. Most times the girls' coach and the boys' coach at Page go along, and they make them behave.
[What are the biggest changes you have seen in Bethesda?]
As I remember, there are two or three big changes. The schools have really changed, gotten larger. Also the roads have been really improved. The roads in the winter time got awful bad around Bethesda. And, there are a lot of new people moving in building new homes. Anywhere they can get the ground they will build.
Years ago I used to go up to your place [Hugh's]. I used to go to the Cross Keys store, open a gate there, go in and through a lot, down through a valley, across a creek down there, and around a pretty good size hill above your home, and on over into the hollow. Today the roads have been changed and you have a nice road in there. [It was paved in 1996.]
I used to raise tobacco where you live, in front of your house, down in the bottom. I set tobacco there many times. That was the old Trice place. There was no pond there then. We were swapping work with Roy Creswell and Noble Chun(???) and Marvin Bond, and myself. We all swapped work. Each one had to have help to have the tobacco pulled and set. One man can't do it. I never did use the setting peg much; I came along when they had tobacco setters. At one time we had what was called a hand type, but we only used it about two or three years until we bought a regular tobacco setter. Two men would ride the setter and set one row at a time.
As I remember, we set on the left side of the Trice house, and we set on the right too, beside the road. On the left, across the little creek there was a little open territory of about a half acre or an acre. [Where Jack Webster lives now.] Three months after we set it out, we had to cut it and put it in the barn. We used to hang tobacco in the barn there. There were at least four levels of poles to hang the tobacco on. We had spears and speared it on a stick--about five or six foot sticks--and hung the sticks up on the cross poles after they had set in the field for about a week. There was a tobacco bed up there. Every farmer had his own tobacco bed. If we ran short of plants we would share with each other to get each man's tobacco set. They used to burn the beds off each year, but they got to where they quit burning it and used chemicals to kill the weeds. They work the ground up after they put the chemical on, sow the seeds, and put a canvas over it to make it grow fast.
[Hugh: that is really rocky soil there.] Well, it really produces. I can't understand how Creswell had his garden. He would really grow stuff, and nothing in it but sandrock. Little, bitty rock. Those rock in the ground, I think, will sweat and make moisture in the ground. You'll never get all the rocks out. The more you plow it the more they will come up.
[Sum up what you would recommend as a philosophy of life.]
Well, I've had a good life. Been good and healthy. I think it all lays at being a good Christian person working with people. [Jessie: you are one of two persons I have never heard say anything bad about a person, even though you may disagree at times.]
I won't drive for too many more years.