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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 Cleo Grigsby

My ancestors and home place

My great grandparents came from Virginia and they came in a covered wagon with ten children. My grandfather, Booker(???) Preston Grigsby, was one of them, and was about 15 years old. They left two in Virginia when they came. They came and it took them several weeks; I've forgotten how long they said it took them to come. They had to cut the roads through and they camped. They had two of the children to die on the way over here. So, there were ten that got here. They settled around Spring Hill. The children married off and on.

My grandfather married Mary Elizabeth Sprott, in 1830 I believe. [IS THIS NEXT SENTENCE CORRECT???] Grant Sprott, who was murdered, owned the land where the house is today where I live. They came there to live after they married because she got the property and it was just, you might say, one room with the upstairs. There wasn't much upstairs. It wasn't sealed, just one room and a hall. The kitchen was on the outside and we had to go down steps. The building was separate, out in the yard. There wasn't even a dog trot between them. They had 12 children born in that house. They finally enlarged it some and built some more rooms.

I remember the kitchen being out there, but we never did use the kitchen after I was born. It was a place where they did a whole lot of their washing and things like that.

My father was born in the same house that I am living in now. My mother was born a little ways from it, over on the Lewisburg Pike. They were born in 1868 and 1870. My father married and they were there in 1898, but moved in with my granny and grandpaw and lived with them until they died. My granny died in 1911 and my grandfather died in 1919. Granny was a _______ and got up one night and fell and broke her hip, I guess it just gave way on her. She was bedfast for several years, and I waited on her a whole lot. I was about six years old, I guess. I waited on her until she died. I have been living in that same home for 91 years.

Childhood memories of homelife

My granny was present when I was born and Dr. Core was up. I was born on a Saturday and of course my granny helped with it. I don't remember what time; I don't know if they told me that or not. Ha. We were on the farm. My granddaddy and father both worked the farm. They had mostly corn and hay, and tobacco as I remember. They always had cattle and hogs . I know they didn't have sheep. They never did have too many cattle but they did have a good many hogs. We always saved the dishwaters and stuff like that for the slop for the hogs. We didn't raise any cotton on the place at home but they did raise it on the Alexander place. I remember them raising it and picking the cotton. We didn't have much income. We just had living expenses.

We generally bought the cloth for our clothes and my aunt would make most of our clothes. She did it by hand. My mamma didn't have time to sew much, and my aunt made most of our clothes. We got our material from the grocery store. They kept everything, dry goods and everything. I remember, even after I begun piecing quilts, I would be able to go down to the store and buy material for the lining and things like that. I remember another thing we don't do today. Every year they would come around buying rags. We always saved all the rags. I wonder why they don't recycle rags today.

On washday we always went out in the yard. We had an old big tub and a big old iron kettle out in the yard that they heated the water in. If the clothes needed boiling they put them over in there and boiled them. They made their own soap. We had what we called an ash hopper out in the yard. All the heat in the house was from a fireplace. The ashes that came from the fireplaces were always put in the ash hopper in the yard. They kept a bucket underneath it and when it rained the lye from the ashes would drain in the bucket. That was used to make the lye soap. They made their own lye soap and they washed with the lye soap.

They made their own hominy [also using the lye from ashes]. We always had a pot of hominy. I remember them making hominy and I have helped some with it too. It was generally cooked on the open fireplace and it took a heap of heat to do it. Then we had the old dutch oven [also called a reflector oven] that we could set before the fireplace and warm the food a little bit. Also. we covered potatoes and eggs in the ashes of the fire and cooked them there. A lot of cooking was done in the fireplace. After they built the kitchen onto the house they always had a swinging arm above the fire to hold pots over it. That's where we cooked a whole lot, on those pots. At first in the new kitchen there was only a fireplace, but then they got a stove.

Most of our bread was biscuits. When we killed hogs they made their own lard. I remember pappy having to carry the corn down to the mill. He would carry it down to the Willhoit(????) mill up close to where Horton Park is today, or the Hardison mill, down at Rabbit Hill. He would take time about to carry his wheat and the corn. When he would bring them back we would pour them into big barrels. We had in our kitchen two big old wood barrels. When he brought the flour and corn meal back he would pour one of them in one barrel and the other in the other one. We made a whole lot of crackling cornbread.

The only way we had to take a bath was to heat the water in the kitchen. We would all take turns going to the kitchen and getting in a big tub of water to take a bath, maybe once a week. I don't remember if we used the same water. I washed in a pan of water more than I did take a bath. I always washed my hair in lye soap. It seems like I miss it today. I think it was one of the best things you could wash your hair in.

At night while I was a child we played dominos and checkers a whole lot. We would get down on the floor to play marbles. It was on the bare floor a lot, but sometimes we had a woven rug that I guess granny made, on the floor. Finally we got a carpet, a straw carpet.

At Christmas times we didn't get too many toys. Pappy would buy a half crate of oranges. That was the only fruit we ever had during the year, except what we raised. We got an orange and mostly candy at Christmas time. Our tree was a cedar and we decorated it with popcorn and paper things that we made.

Our beds had a straw mattress and a feather comfort. We did not have rooms for everybody. During thrashing time we always had people to come around and thrash the wheat. They would stay at night. We had to make room for them to sleep and eat.

All the traveling was done mostly in buggies and wagons. We used to go once a year hickory hunting. We went way down the road to the hickory trees. We picked up walnuts and sold walnuts a whole lot. We always picked enough blackberries to make what we wanted to cook with, and then we would sell them. We sold them to neighbors. I have picked a whole lot of blackberries for a dime a gallon. Finally they gave us twenty-five cents a gallon for them, and we bought our first ice cream freezer with the money we saved. We had one old person, Minnie Sprott, who couldn't get out and didn't have any children to pick for her.

School at Bethesda

I went to school down where the store is. At that time there was just a lower room and an upstairs. The little small children had to go up the stairs to get to their room. At that time they just had two teachers. They added an extra room when I was in the fifth grade. I think I mostly carried my lunch wrapped in paper. Some carried lunches in little flannel bags or tin buckets. We carried it in tin buckets a whole lot. We took meat and biscuits because that was what we had to eat. We never did carry chitterlings to school, I don't think.

I went through the twelfth grade there and graduated in 1923. Then I took the teacher's examination and passed. I never married.

My start in teaching

They gave me a school to teach, at Trinity, in the first four grades. I taught there four years and then went to Rudderville, where Page high school is now, and taught there eight years. Then I came to Bethesda. During that time, in the summer, I would teach. For five summers I taught down in the first district for a month. They were raising cotton, and they opened the school in July but closed it in August so they could pick. The teacher that was supposed to be teaching there was in school and could not open that school. I went for five years down there and taught one month, July, before they opened the school in this district.

I went to school at Murfreesboro during the summers. Every six years we would have to go there to renew our teaching certificate. I had to use several summers to take credits to finish high school to be accredited, because the school down here was not accredited. I had to take extra work, some of the same things I had in high school. It took several summers to do that. Then, I kept going in the summer and finally got my BS. I kept going and got my masters later.

When I was teaching we only made $50 a month. I had to board and pay $20 of that to board. I had to be carried to the school at Trinity in a horse and buggy on Sunday afternoon and my brother would come and get me on Friday afternoon. When I went to Rudderville I still boarded two years but I sort of saved up a little money. I don't know how I did it. We, my brother helped me, bought a car and I drove back and forth.

My cars

The first car we had at home was sort of a little van, closed up. It was a Ford, I think. The one I got to go to school with I bought in 1930. It was a '30 Ford that I bought. I guess I used that Ford for 15 or 16 years and then I bought a Pontiac and used it for about 15 or 16 years. And then bought a Dodge and used a Dodge for 15 or 16 years. Then I bought the one I've got now; I've been using it from 1976.

More about our foods

I don't remember when the new kitchen was built. When I was telling about cooking on the fireplace, it would have been about 1906 or 1907. They finally got a range in the kitchen and it had the four cooking eyes, a water reservoir on the side, and a warming oven up above. We still kept those pots hanging in the fireplace to use from time to time.

We always had a right big garden, and we saved everything we could to can. We would can everything that could be canned. We had the old blue canning jars that we used mostly. People thought the blue ones kept things better than white ones. I don't know about that. The tops were zinc tops. Then, pappy would go out and dig a hole in the ground and put hay in it. We heeled our Irish potatoes and turnips and sweet potatoes and kept them like that. Our meat, we always had plenty of meat hanging in the smokehouse. We had our own chickens. We had eggs when we wanted them. We had our own milk; we had cows. We never did raise dairy cows too much. We just had a few beef cattle. We always had to milk. I was brought up milking. That was one of my jobs, go to the barn and help milk, morning and evening.

We always made sauerkraut in big kegs. I have seen my daddy get out and chop those cabbages and beat them down and salt them. I can see him carrying stone crocks filled with kraut. We made pickles the same way, in crocks. We had a cider mill and made cider. I think a few times we made wine, using blackberries and elderberries and things like that. We dried apples and peaches. We had our own orchard and we had a cherry tree and always made preserves.

We dried our food by peeling it and slicing it as thin as we could. We laid then on a flour sack up on top of the houses--on tin roofs--and dried them. We put them on the tin roof to get the heat from underneath and the sun above. We would always have to watch and bring them in at night. If it began to rain we would have to bring them in. We tried to cover them with cheesecloth or something like that to keep the flies off.

We had a spring that we used for a while but as long as I remember we had a dug well, a big well with plenty of water. We also had a dug out cellar that we could keep food in, right near the well house. You would have to go down in the cellar to keep our food. Occasionally we would have to carry it to the spring if the weather got too hot. We would carry it down and set the things in the spring. I don't remember a milk ditch; we just tried to make things heavy enough so they wouldn't float away. We didn't have to buy too much from the store because we had our own meal and flour. We bought a little sugar. Things were right cheap in the store. I don't think we ever paid over ten cents for a loaf of bread, if we had to buy any. Eggs were cheap but we didn't have to buy eggs. If we sold eggs--sometimes we sent eggs to sell--you couldn't get over 25 cents a dozen if you got that.

My daddy would buy us a keg of salty fish and we would bring them home. We always, the night before we were going to cook it for breakfast the next day, took it to the spring to soak the salt out of the catfish. One night I remember some varmint got it all and we didn't have the catfish the next morning. That was the only time I remember anything getting it.


The store was where it is today. We had two stores there next to the school. My uncle ran one of them and Leo's granddaddy ran the other one. One of them had the post office in it. While we were at school we used to walk the fence. They had a plank across from post to post, and we used to walk the fence over to the store to get things. I remember the flagpole was there and I've seen the boys get out of the windows upstairs and climb out and hit it. I don't see why some of them didn't get killed or why some of those children didn't fall going down those steps.

We had a saw mill and a broom factory. We always had a 4-H Club in the school and we had community clubs to go to. Our church group always had a youth group that met. We always had the church picnic over in the Mill woods. The men folks would put up swings and we had a big picnic over there every year. They would play games; they always played ball. When we were children we played anty-over and puss-in-boots and I don't know what all. We played a heap of marbles.

We just had two churches, the Methodists and the Presbyterian. We would alternate the sermons. We had Sunday schools at both churches but then on the first and third Sundays we would have preaching at the Presbyterian church and on the second and fourth there would be preaching at the Methodist church. The Presbyterian church was where it is today, and the Methodist church was down where the lodge is today.

Funny things while teaching at Bethesda

I remember all the boys walking off one day. They all walked off and stayed all day. They came in that evening all bringing switches. Ha! Ha! I remember whipping a boy because he came in with polecat smell on him. Ha. We had to get out and burn cedar around him before he could come in . To get rid of polecat smell you take cedar brushes and burn around. When we got through with burning the cedar brush, I wore him out with what was left. [Jessie helped with the details of the polecat incident.]

One day someone went by and called the school names. They all chased him down and ducked him; that was Mr. John Trice that they ducked. When anyone went by the school and called it names the boys would chase them and duck them. We had some good times.

[Hugh: What is the greatest invention?]

I guess electricity. It has been the biggest help in my lifetime. It was a long time before we got it, in the forties. We just used old lamps and candles. I don't see how we went through school as much as we did and have any eyes left. When we first got electricity I think the frigidaire was the first thing we bought. Maybe we bought a radio, but we didn't have too many electric things. Our first radio was one that we put over our ears to hear.

I remember the first radio I listened to. I had to stop one night because of the creek; I couldn't get home from Rudderville. I spent the night with ______??? Bond and Irene. They had a radio and I enjoyed listening to that.

I wish I knew something about the computer but I'm too old to learn it. It must be a wonderful invention for those who are working with it. I don't see how they do without it now.

[Hugh: what is your philosophy of life to pass on?]

I can't think now.

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