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Lifestyles of the Past and Present in Bethesda
Genealogy & Local History eBook

Lifestyles Cover

Prepared by Hugh Keedy and Jessie Bennett
Co-directors: Bethesda Museum

Billy Alexander
Jessie Bennett
Franklin Bond
Leo Bond
Lola Bowersox
Cleo Grigsby
Agnes Hargrove
Hugh Keedy
Annie Lou McCord
Bessie Mosley
Lester Mosley
Jean Sanders
Joyce Smith
Ruth Taylor
James Trice
Jerry Watkins
Bill Wiley

Interview With Lola Bowersox

[Jessie: I was telling a girl last night about you spanking me in the first grade. She said, "you mean Miss Lola spanked children? She wouldn't spank anybody." I said, "well, she pulled her hands back and give us hot tea." Do you remember that?]

Well, I don't remember hot tea. But one time I got sick and my sister Alma went to teach one day for me. She said, "Now listen Lola, you go back or they won't have a teacher. I'm not going. I wouldn't go back over there for nothing."

My first school

The first year I taught I made $55 a month and paid twenty for rent and board. I went to a little place--a two-teacher school--called Naomi. Course, it's not there now. It was down in the lower part of Williamson County. You go through part of Davidson and then you come back into Williamson. It was off to the right of 100 Highway, about a mile or two miles off. The first district school had what they called Highland Rim schools. They would start a month earlier than schools here.

When they assigned me that school Daddy and mother carried me down there. I boarded with a man named Mr. Sullivan. Miss Redford, the woman that was the principal boarded there too. Mother had made me dress school clothes and I stayed five weeks before I came home. By then I had gained so that those dresses were bursting. They ate altogether different from what I had been used to eating. They had the whole grain flour--the bread was not bleached, and we had things out of the garden. I was so hungry for a piece of chocolate pie that I thought I would give anything for one. We didn't have any desserts. We had apples off of trees and things like that, but we didn't have a lot of sweet things.

I was so homesick I nearly died. I was teaching the first four grades in one room. She had five, six, seven and eight. One afternoon I was sweeping and Mr. Joe Pinkerton--he worked at Williamson County Bank--came by and was selling some kind of volunteer insurance, I think. And I was sweeping and crying. I was so homesick I thought I was going to die. And I said, "Mr. Joe, I want to go home with you. Take me to Franklin and I can get home from Franklin." He said, "no, Lola, I am not taking you. You went to school to teach school. If I take you home you will be through. You won't ever teach again. No, I'm not going to take you home." And he didn't take me. But I wanted him to.

Mr. Sullivan had a spring that had a basin chiseled out of limestone rock. Well, Miss Redford didn't think the water was pure enough, so she goes down with some Purex and pours it in that limestone basin. You know, that stuff penetrated in and she messed that spring up for a week. Mr. Sullivan like to had a fit. That was the spring for the school and the house too. There was no spring at the school. The kids had to bring the water in buckets from over at Mr. Blythe Trice's. They poured it in a cooler like thing; we did it the same way at Choctaw when I taught there. Sometimes kids that didn't have a cup would make paper cups by folding it like a hat, you know.

I was the janitor, too. We had to sweep our own rooms and then when it got cold we had to see that we had our own kindling in. The county brought the coal and dumped it out--the same as later over at Choctaw. The boys would build a fire.

There was nothing to do and I wasn't concerned about plans for the next day. This lady who was the principal had taught several years. She would sit up with a lamp and make plans and everything for the next day. When it got dark, I went straight to bed and went to sleep. Ha. Ha.

The itch

One night I had already been asleep, Miss Redford called me and said, "Lola, get up and come here and look at me." She showed me all over her chest and said, "have you ever seen anything that looks like this?" I said, "no." She said, "this is itching me to death." But, I had seen little old boys at school with no shirts on, and bib overalls, doing all sorts of scratching. Well, I didn't know; I thought they were just nervous. Well, it wasn't long--two or three, maybe four days-- after that I got to itching.

We stayed down there during this week end and all, but right before we were to come home--the five weeks were up--my sister came after me. We were just going home for the weekend. Miss Redford's mother was dead and so she was going home with me. That was the first time I had been home and she was going home with me. I had been itching the night before and told her, "I don't know what this is, but we are going to stop in Franklin. I'm going to see Dr. Walker." Dr. Walker and Dr. Noland had their offices in that building beside where the Presbyterian church is. Dr. Walker asked what was my trouble. Of course, he didn't know Miss Redford since she was from Nashville. I said, "Well, there is something wrong. We are broken out with something and we are itching." The nurse came in there and we took our clothes off. When he went back out, he said, "Come here Dr. Noland, I want you to help me diagnose what these girls have." Well, Dr. Noland came in and they look at each other and just laughed. He said, "what do you say it is, Dr. Noland?" And he said, "I say it's old itch!" We liked to have died.

We went on home and mother said, when we told her, "Oh, my Lordy what will I do with you all!" Well she fixed a couch and put us on the porch--it was August. And, Miss Redford and I kept everything we touched separate. Mother wouldn't let us wash in anything. We didn't wash in any pan or anything they had. When we left, mother, I am sure, boiled everything we had touched. But nobody got it in momma's house.

That was the awfulest itching I have ever felt. It was on my body. A lot of people, I always thought, got it on your hands between your fingers. But this was big old welts. I had seen those children at school, but I thought they were nervous. Ha. Ha. Is it a parasite or something that gets on your skin? I don't know.

My next school

But then they transferred me. Mr. Page was superintendent. I guess anybody who has told you about teaching school in Williamson County knows about Fred J. Page. Page School was named for him. I think he was superintendent for about forty years--a long, long time. Well, they transferred me from Naomi over to a school called Post Oak. A lumber camp came in--I guess it was almost like a virgin forest--and this lumber company had bought up a tract of land just to cut the lumber off. That school was already a two-teacher school but the enrollment enlarged so they just put up kinda like little shanties. That was before the day of portables and mobile homes. The children of the men of that lumber camp came to that school, and they sent me over there.

The first time that Mr. Page came to visit that school, I didn't have sense enough to quit playing basketball with the boys on the outdoor court. We were chasing up and down playing. Mr. Page didn't know I was out there. Mr. Blair was the principal. Both teachers were big, fat people, I mean. Miss Beulah, she hung off the side of the chair and Mr. Blair was nearly that big. I imagine I weighed 110 pounds then. I was skinny. Mr. Blair came out there and said, "come on in here. Mr. Page wants to see you. He wanted to know where the other teacher was." I saw him go in but I didn't have sense enough to stop and go in to see him. I knew who he was because he had been superintendent when I was a little girl in school, but he didn't know me. I didn't know you were supposed to go in and listen to him.

So, I taught in the first district at Naomi and Post Oak the first year, which was 1937-38. Neither room at Naomi had an attendance of over 35 or 40, but when I got over at Post Oak Miss Beulah had like 50 or 60 in her room. He gave me the third and fourth grades, I believe. Miss Beulah and I taught in the same room. She was up on the stage. And talk about whether you spank anybody, one day I looked up there and she had put this little boy on that big fat lap and her hand looked like a ham of meat. That little boy's feet were kicking. Today there would be law suits. That's why we don't have any discipline in school; there's nobody correcting the kids. They just let them go. I think that little boy said a bad word and he got a whipping.

Choctaw school

Then I went to Choctaw the next year. [Jessie said that she was had Lola as her first grade teacher at Choctaw.] The school is right beside the road [and is still standing, about two feet from the road]. It was a public road that went up to Ed Biggers house. Robert Beech's daddy, Bob Beech, would come by the school house and he would be drunk. And I was scared of him as a bear and I would tell those kids, "don't you all say a word when he goes by." It was a one room school with eight grades.

The school Christmas tree

Jessie, I guess you went with us to cut down that first Christmas tree. You know, when you look out at a pretty tree and it's standing out in a big open lot, it looks pretty. So, the whole bunch of us went--Ross Reed and Jake Hargrove, Junior Beard--we all saw this [cedar] tree and it was pretty. They said, "this is pretty, let's get it." And, I bet you the trunk of it was that big around--I know when they cut that thing down we couldn't carry it! They said, "well, let's go and get Big Apple--that's what they called Mr. Blythe Trice--get Big Apples's cart and we'll pull it in." I said to go on and the rest of the kids and me just set around and played on the hill. It was over in that lot close to Scott Reed's house.

Well, they brought the cart and we broke Mr. Blythe's wheels off of his cart. We loaded that thing and it broke. Well, we couldn't do it, so we decided to cut some of it off. You know how when you cut off a tree that big it makes a big hole. But, they cut some off and we drug it on in to Choctaw. Drug it in the door--it was so fat--we finally got it in the door. They had nailed cross pieces on the bottom. When they stood it up it the whole top bent at the ceiling. We had to drag it back out and they cut off some more. When we got through it just had holes, but we went on and decorated that thing. [Jessie said she remembered that tree; it was the first year she went to school there.] That was the first time I ever tried to do a Christmas tree at school. A lot of what we put on it we made. We cut out strips of green and red paper and made a chain, and we did some icicles. We did have a few bought things but we made a lot of things to put on it. But, it was the worst looking tree I ever saw. We went on and had a program.

At Christmas programs the children would say little poems and sometimes we would do the Christmas story. We dressed some up like the wise men and like the shepherds, like churches used to do; they don't do it now. There were a lot of pretty little poems and things that kids would memorize and say. The parents would come. And they would sing a lot of little Christmas songs. In that old school house there was a step-up that was the stage. But, we couldn't get the Christmas tree on the stage. We put it down beside the stage and stood on the stage and tried to decorate it.

School meals

Another thing, the health department would get after us now. We cooked lunch on that pot bellied stove. About that time the government started giving commodities. They would give us things like beans, and cheese, and canned tomatoes. I don't know if they gave us potatoes or we all had to bring a potato. I think the kids would bring a potato or two. Besides being the janitor, I was also the cook. Ha. There was an old sour taste to it but I never thought a thing about it hurting the kids. [Jessie: well, it was good; we'd all eat it.] Well, we'd peel things and we'd put them on that big pot bellied stove, and it would cook. I had a ladle and we all had bowls. I'm sure I didn't have scalding water to scald them when I got through. We would heat water to wash them but I am sure I didn't scald them. I know they weren't sterile. We just made one dish. We either had beans, or we would have soup, more than anything else in the winter time. It would be like a vegetable soup. We got beans in a burlap bag, and they lasted a good long time. And, we had cheese. They gave us a good bit of cheese. I don't know how I sliced that cheese, but it would be in big quantities.

The schoolyard

We didn't have any playground. The school property was a narrow little strip that came from Flat Creek Road and was right beside the road. There was also a little old coal house that they put coal in. The girls' toilet [an outhouse] was in one direction and the boys' in another. That space wasn't bigger than anything. When they played baseball, the outfield would have to get off of school property and over in Jack Trice's field. [Jessie: the girls played a lot on rocks nearby.] Yes, we played "billy goats" on the rocks all the time. [Jessie: as a matter of fact that's what I got a spanking for--not coming back when you told us to. We were playing house.] We had a bell that you shook with your hand to call the students in.

I remember the old cooler that they had on a little shelf, back by the door. It had little braces under it and was green. The cooler had a spigot on it. The boys would bring water from Jimmie Lou's well, across the road at Blythe Trice's place, and pour it in the cooler. Then the kids would get the water from it in their cups. Mr. Blythe let me put my horse in his stable. I rode horseback.

I was raised on that hill where David Hargrove and Judy live. The way to the house now is not the way we got up there when we lived there. We went about middle way of the field and had to cross the creek, and we went around the hill in a buggy. Later, before mother and Aaron sold that place, mother built that bridge where you come straight in and go across to go down into the creek. That little red house on the right is where I was living. It was on my mother and daddy's farm. Getting up that hill when it was bad was something else.

And fording that Rutherford Creek was something then, too. Seems like the creek doesn't flow like it used to. That one in Bethesda seemed like it used to be out a lot. The road used to go close to where the Presbyterian church is. When you got to the end of that swaggy like field of Franklin Bond's, before you get to where the bridge is, we turned directly and took a sharp left and crossed. You went down through the creek--that was called Bond's creek. That creek was always up, it seemed like. Then you went on up on this side of the creek, and then we had to cross again when we got up to our house. It was a long time before they took the road out of that creek. People that went to Comstock Road also had to cross Rutherford Creek to get over to their road.

We didn't fool with Rutherford Creek. It was Bond's creek that we had to cross. The Grigsbys had to cross Rutherford Creek to get up to where they lived. That's when they cut the road all the way around.


Talking about that road where you go to school, gypsies used to come through the country. I don't know whether it would be fall or spring. There was a sawmill between where this road came up beside the Bond's field. They owned all the way from the corner up there to that first house, that Luther Reed built. The Cartwrights live there now. There was a space between the road and the creek and these gypsies would come along and set up camp. People would tell us that "the gypsies were still loose and were going to get us." We were scared to death. They would be boiling and cooking things over a fire and we would be scared to death. They did it year after year, and for a long time I was scared of them. They would not stay but about two days. I don't know why they were set up there. I just know I was scared of them. Lois and Alexanie Trice [sisters of Jessie] would be going up the road with us. They were probably scared of them too.

The peddler that came through was not a gypsy. He would have things in his pack that he would show. He just came through and would stay one night. But I wasn't scared of him. I was scared of these that came in covered wagons and had stuff hanging out behind like chicken coops. They were pulled by horses. I don't believe I ever saw any mules. There would be four or five wagons, sometimes more. It seemed like an army to me because I was so scared. They would put down stakes and let the horses graze till they got ready to break camp. When we would come home from school and they would be gone, we would be tickled to death. We would go over there where they had had the campfire and all. I don't remember that they dressed so different from the way we did. I don't know where they were going or where they came from. They wouldn't stay long--two nights at the most. Most of the time they would be there when we would come in from school one afternoon and they would be there the next morning, but maybe the next night they would be gone.

My own school days

I went to school at Bethesda, where the store is. That's where I started. If people had done me like my parents did to teachers I would have had a fit. I was the oldest, and mother and them thought I shouldn't go to school until the winter. I started school in March and was nearly eight years old when school started the next time. It was in the old school house.

They had the little ones upstairs, with a winding stairs that went up. That Monday morning mother carried me and the teacher wasn't there. The boys had found some mice, little old baby mice, and I was despise mice. I'm scared to death of them. They had found the mice in the trash can and had the girls running, chasing, and screaming. I started crying and wanted mother to take me home. Mother hated to leave me there so bad. But the teacher came in and of course she made those boys quit chasing. I liked my teacher, Miss Mattie Alexander. I am sure she was Lester's [Mosley] teacher too. She boarded with Miss Cleo Grigsby and them. She was kin to Miss Cleo. Miss Cleo's mother was an Alexander.

Bethesda churches

Back in the old days you didn't know if you were a Presbyterian or Methodist. Every Sunday we had our Sunday School at our own church. I think it was the first and third Sundays that the Presbyterians had preaching at their church and the second and fourth Sundays preaching was at the Methodist church. When the Sunday School was over we would--if it was first and third Sunday--the congregation would all go up to the Presbyterian church and we would all have preaching together. And then when it was the second and fourth Sunday, the Presbyterians would come down to our church. Brother and Mrs. Miller, Marshall McCoy Beasley's grandfather, was minister here for thirty or forty years. His wife was always kind of late.

The Methodist church was where it is now. I don't know if the Presbyterian church has ever been anywhere but where it is now. [Jessie: no, the Presbyterian church building is over two hundred years old.] The Methodist have had two or three churches. They had a log church down where the Masonic hall is. Mrs. Miller would come in. She was be late. She had long hair and she had a little comb. She would sit down and she would straighten up her hair behind. It would be so cute. Ha. And Brother Miller would pray the longest prayers. Oh. I would go to sleep and wake up and he would still be praying. Ha. Made mother so mad. "Oh, stay awake!" She tried to make us stay awake. We didn't have preachers stay long at our church. Methodists back in the old days stayed about four years. You had to be a big church like McKendree in Nashville if you would get ministers like they did. We had student pastors most of the time. They would be Vanderbilt students and while they would be getting educated they would be here.

The men went in on one side. We had two doors down at the old Methodist church the left hand side was the ladies' side and the right hand side was the men's. And there was a rail that went all the way through. They had big columns in the old church; it was a pretty old church. The lodge was on the second floor. Around the back door it was pretty. It had beautiful woodwork in it, but they burned up a lot of that good lumber and seats. I loved that old church. The chairs that you have in the museum [two pulpit chairs] came out of that church, but they are not the ones I remember first in that church. It seems that they had a little post that went up behind. It had a poplar floor in it, I am sure. I can see those wide planks in that floor.

Dr. Core

I was trying to think of what Dr. Core's name was. I knew it was J.B., but remembered it was Blythe Core. His house was down where the Drury's live. He built on the part of the house that is there. He had a wing that came out and that was where is office and all was. I used to go in his office, and he had a little baby in a jar of something--a little child. It was preserved and it scared the daylights out of me. It set up on the top of his shelves. But I loved Dr. Core. He could make you feel better just to come around him and smell--he smelled so clean.

My childhood

My mother was born where I was born. That was my mother's father's place. I was the oldest of five children. I had two sisters. They were close together. I was about three years older than my next sister, and then Alma and Glenda were just fifteen months apart. Mother and Daddy skipped four years before Leon was born. Then, when I was a freshman in college, my last brother was born. So, I was almost as much older than my young brother than my mother is older than me.

Daddy was a farmer. I would get up every morning and I loved the outdoors. I never did like to do housework. Ha! I would go to the barn with daddy. We would get up at five o'clock every morning. The kids say to me now, "why do you get up at five o'clock in the morning? Why don't you sleep?" Janice keeps saying, "I am going to get some blackout blinds." I say, "Janice, it is black pitch dark at five o'clock in the winter time and I wake up. I don't want shades on my windows."

But we would go to the barn, and Alma, my next sister, would help mother in the kitchen. Then my next sister tended to the chickens. She fed the chickens and gathered the eggs. All of us had to bring in wood in the afternoon after we got home from school. We had to have stove wood year round. That had to be brought in all the time. But in the winter, we had another dose. We had to bring for the fireplace in the evening to heat the house. Alma, Thelma, and I slept in a bedroom with no fire and I still like to sleep in a room that is not warm. I think you sleep better. But that is what you are raised to be used to.

I know we raised just about all the food we had. When people talk about the depression, I didn't know there was a depression. We were so well off I didn't know. We had our own milk, we had our own butter, we had our own wheat, we had corn. Daddy would carry them up to close to Horton Park where there was a mill on the river. They would make a list of how much flour or wheat daddy brought and when he would go and get two or three hundred pounds of flour or meal, they would mark down on his records. I guess they kept it on a notebook.

With my daddy we milked cows and would feed the pigs. We had horses we worked the farm with. We had to do all the feeding. Shucked the corn for the pigs. We always had to have a big bucket of shucked corn to feed those. I don't remember how many ears of corn you would feed each one of your horses.

We had a strange barn, a three story. Underneath, the bottom was where the stalls and stables were. Then there was like a bridge over a little branch that ran down from the spring. Then you went into what would be like a hallway in the barn, on the middle level. That was where daddy put his wagon and stuff. Then the cribs were off to the side. Daddy could back the wagons loaded with corn in and scoop it into the crib. Then they had the lofts with the hay. And, it wasn't baled hay. It was put in there with a hay fork. They put it on wagons and would take it off the wagon. They fed hay with a pitchfork by throwing it down chutes to the animals. It went down the chute directly from the third floor to the animal stalls on the lower level. We had no more than eight or ten cows. Course, daddy would milk more than I could, but as I got older I could milk as fast as daddy. When I started I couldn't milk at all and my sister Alma never learned to milk and Thelma didn't either. Of course, they never went to the barn.

Sometime we sold cream. For a long time we used a separator where you let the milk set and the cream rises. Mr. Trav Wallace ran the store at Cross Keys. They tested your cream and they gave you so much money by how much butterfat you had in your cream. You took your eggs there to sell and they had a light that you put your egg over to candle it. Bethesda had these too, but I don't know why we always went to Cross Keys with our cream. At the time we were living on the hill at David Hargrove's. It was called the "old Giles place" and the "Charlie Reed place."

In later years we got the type of separator that had a handle to turn. But that things was a pain in the neck to wash. Alma got to do that. Ha! You had to break that old thing down.

The white, long barn on Bethesda road at one time was a chicken barn. The white house beside it was where Jean Gary's great grandparents lived. My mother's mother died when she was a baby, and Miss Alice Irvin, Jean Sanders grandmother, was so good to mother. They were just close neighbors so they made mother's clothes for her.

Fruit on the farm

We had a real good peach orchard that had plums, pears, and apples. Mother would can and we would dry peaches. There was a certain kind you had to have to break off the seed cleanly to dry the best . We would pick blackberries. Back then you could buy sugar by the hundred pounds. We would get a hundred pounds of sugar and mother would make jams and jellies and things out of blackberries and things that came in. We would get at least a tub full at blackberry time. We would empty our bucket into the tub. You can trip and spill your berries in the grass mighty easy! Daddy would carry a big tub. The whole family would go. Of course, the brothers weren't big enough. Mother, daddy, Alma, Glenda, and I.

Chiggers were around then, too. You scratched. Chiggers were a nuisance. My sister next to me, Alma, had fair skin. Chiggers nearly killed Alma. Some people's skin just can't take it. They didn't bother me like they did her. Glenda was younger; I don't remember her being eaten up like Alma, but I can see the welts and all. Chiggers will eat you. Seems like mother put something on our clothes and tied around our ankles, but I can't think what. It was some kind of cloth and she had put it in something [probably coal oil] and she tied it around our britches legs. And sometimes in the barn you would get fleas; the pigs would sleep under the barn sometime and we always thought that's what made us get so pestered with them.

Our "spring tonic"

Have you ever heard of pouring coal oil on sugar? [Jessie: we heard of that the other day.] I'll tell you, back in those days in the spring of the year mother would go down to Dr. Core's and he would give mother enough calomel pills for each one of us. I think it was three. We would have to take those blooming things! We'd be fine. There would be nothing wrong with us. But, when we got through with the calomel and castor oil, we were so weak we couldn't walk! I said if I ever have a child I'd never do that. That castor oil, I just couldn't stand that stuff and that old calomel will make you.... But I never did in my life give my kids a dose of castor oil.

[That was a common "spring tonic" at one time. Hugh: in my mother's family everyone took a laxative every Friday night as a routine.]

Daddy would always go out in the spring and would dig up sassafras roots. We would keep sassafras on the wood burning stove. I just love sassafras tea.

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