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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 Lester Mosley

Early days

I don't remember much about my young life anyway. I was born in Illinois, and came down here when I was about seven years old. It was about 1923 or 1924. We came down in a Model T Ford. It took us about six or seven days. I don't remember but one thing on the way down--the old cobblestone roads we came over. They didn't have highways back then. It was wintertime and it was cold. We stayed in homes sometimes and motels some, I guess. I know it was so cold that we had to take a lantern and light it and put in under a blanket for us kids. I had three sisters older than I was. I still have some pictures taken on the road while we were coming down.

We came to a house that is just west of where the Lodge is now--a two story frame house. It belonged to Mr. Jim Grigsby, who owned everything from where he lived on west for a way. There were two big rooms and then the house started branching off, with the kitchen off from the rest. Outside, there were several large pecan trees. [Note: The last one was blown over in a storm in about 1993.] The spring house where we got our water is still standing. We had a trough in there that you set your milk and butter and stuff in.

My mother died then in 1925 in the house we moved to. She was sick a lot, but we had an old country doctor, Dr. Core, that lived where the Ralph Drury house is now. I know that my daddy would send me, and me only eight years old probably, to get him. I was scared to death and they said they could hear me running on the road. With my old big shoes on you could hear me running for a mile. I'd go get the doctor to come down for my mother. I never heard my daddy say how he paid the doctor.

All I remember was that before she died, my mother made a lot of light bread. We drank a lot of milk and ate a lot of light bread; I guess that was our main source of food. We were raised up poor, as the old saying goes. Later on we had a cow or two and churned our own butter. I don't remember exactly whether we had the old wooden churn, the dasher kind you raised up and down, or the small churn on a glass jar. As a kid, we always liked to see something moving.

After my mother died, my daddy remarried, a couple of years after my mother died. My stepmother is Bessie Mosley. We lived in the house that she lives in now. [An interview with her is also in this book.] Mr. Tom Beasley furnished the wood and he furnished the money, I am sure. And he had to pay him so much a month. She was a school teacher so I guess she has already told you about riding a horse to Ash Hill school over there.

We grew up poor. I remember at Christmas time--that's when we lived down there on the creek--my daddy would come up here to the store and he would buy 50 pounds of pinto beans and 50 pounds of white beans. Sometimes, he would buy a keg of fish--little salty fish that come in barrels. I don't remember a Christmas back before my mother died, but later on--like I said--all we got was food. My stepmother used to bake a lot of cakes and candy, and that was good enough for me. But as far as a lot of Christmas trees and presents and things, I don't think we had nothing like that.

I remember going to church with my mother down here where the Lodge Hall is now. There used to be a big two story church building there. It was a Methodist church, and the lodge hall was up over top of it. We were right next door to it then. I remember going with my mother, and when we were able to have shoes, you know, they would cram a pair of shoes on your feet. You would have to pull them off while you were in church--and then you couldn't get them back on. I remember that part of it. Let's see, I joined the church in about 1926, I believe. Of course we had Epworth League and we were up there for that. Epworth League they called it back then, like MYF [Methodist Youth Fellowship] is today.

I went to my first school right there where the store is now. I guess the first eight grades were upstairs and the high school was downstairs -- they had all 12 grades. I didn't have far to go to school and we walked to school. I don't remember what we had for lunches, but it probably was not much.

I was in the first class to finish in the new building, in 1936. You see, the school burned and I finished school down there right across from Ruth Taylor's--in that building there. The high school used that building. The grammar school went to the Methodist church and I think some went to the Presbyterian church. But, they got a new school completed enough that we graduated on the stage in 1936--in the new building. We were the first class to graduate.

My father and his work

My father, Henry Mosley, was a farm worker, a laborer, in Illinois. Then, when he came down here he opened up a garage and was a mechanic. The garage was on the northwest corner at the intersection of the roads at Bethesda, across from the school at that time. He was a mechanic and had a grist mill where he ground corn. I don't know how he made the transition from farm worker to a mechanic. When you had your own machinery and it broke down, you fixed it and got experience through trial and error, I suppose.

I don't know how quick after we got here that he built the garage. Of course, after that it burned, at the same time the two stores did. Then, he built another garage near the southeast corner. That is the building with the tin roof on it that stands close to the back of where the store is now. Mr. Ross Gary built that for him.

The grist mill

He had a grist mill in it and when I got about 10 or 12 I started running the grist mill on Saturdays, when I wasn't in school. A grist mill was the only way people had of getting meal back then; you didn't buy it from the store. You harvested your corn out of the field and when it got dry enough to grind, you brought it down there. They'd bring two or three bushel sacks and we'd take our toll out--I think it was every seventh pound--for our work. With our share we'd grind it up and sell it or grind it up for chicken feed. That was one way we could get some cash. And, a lot of people would bring wheat down there and we'd make flour. Of course, we'd make the all bran flour.

We had several different engines to run the mill. Over in the place that burned we had a great big old gas engine with big side wheels on it. I know I wasn't big enough to start it because you had to turn it backwards , stand up on the wheel, and get it over to get it going. After we moved to the new garage we had an old truck, I believe a Mack truck. Right in the middle where the drive shaft was, we put a pulley and disconnected the drive shaft, and run a belt from the pulley to the mill.

The mill itself was not very big, maybe as big as a table. There was a big hopper above into which you poured the corn. The corn trickled down between two big rocks that turned to grind the corn. You adjusted them for fine or course meal. hen it came out into a sifter that would shake and shake the husks out in one place and your meal out in another. The rocks looked like flint rocks. They were round and had curved grooves in them all the way around. I've since seen them laying around--I wish we had one now--where people had thrown them out. Over time, the grooves would wear out and you would hire somebody to come with a little old pecking hammer. It would take him days to sit there and peck new grooves out. You had to know just exactly how to do it, I suppose. You adjusted the two stones where they would come together, to where a grain of corn would just come through and be crushed. The stones had a common axle and one stone would be turned past the other one, which stood still.

I know that people would run out of meal in the fall of the year before the corn got good and dry. They'd bring it down there and you'd put it in and try to grind it, and it would come out in little "worms" rather than meal. They had a hard time back then, I'll tell you.


How did I meet Gertrude? When I was going to school I didn't have a car. I guess it was along in the junior or sophomore class. Some of the classes would have a weenie roast or something like that. Some of the classes were having a weenie roast, and had it up at Jessie's mother's house. I don't know why; maybe they asked her. I didn't have a girl friend--I was too bashful to even look at one. But, some of the boys brought some girls from over at Arno. Thomas Ham, Woody Junior Smithson, and some of them were invited I suppose. Anyway, I was supposed to go, so a friend of mine, Thomas Ham, picked me up. His daddy had a car, an old '28 Chevrolet I believe. They were supposed to leave the cars down by the store and everybody walk up there. We didn't have girl friends so we didn't care much, but at the weenie roast we were playing a game called pick up sticks. Lay a stick out in the middle and line up on both sides--choose sides. Each person had a number, and when someone would call out a number the two people with that number would see who could run and grab the stick and run back. Anyway, that's where I saw Gertrude Lester. I tried my best to catch her but I never did. I got lucky enough to have the right number but I couldn't catch her--she was too fast.

I kinda had my eye on her, and then after it was over with, Thomas Ham and I instead of walking with the whole crowd came on fast and got his car. We were going back and pick them up and get us a girl friend. But, that didn't work out either. They wouldn't ride with us. I didn't see her for I don't know how long after that. Then, one night at College Grove we were playing basketball. I was on Bethesda's team and Bethesda and College Grove were always big rivals. It must have been a tournament, because I had already played and was standing around one of the two big pot bellied stoves in the gym, one on each side. A friend of mine, Vernon Overton, was dating Gertrude's sister at the time. I was standing over by the stove talking when he said, "Come over here, I want you to meet somebody." So, he introduced me to Gertrude.

And from there on, things got better. But, oh, it went for a long time--I would have to wait for a special occasion. I know Harry Grigsby carried us, a whole bunch of kids, to Shelby Park one time for an outing. He invited me to go along with him and I invited Gertrude to go. During our courting days I didn't have an automobile. I would have to get somebody that was going that way, and I would ride over to see her. Then I would walk back four miles. Finally, I'd get my dad's Model T. Back then, that was the only transportation we had, and I'd go over there in it. I know one night it was so cold it froze up and I couldn't get it started and had to walk back home in the cold. We went together about five years before we got married.

And the creek; when I was courting the creek would get up. Of course, I was courting pretty heavy then and just had to go, you know. And, the creek would be so high you couldn't hardly ford it. Whenever the water gets up over the exhaust pipe it drowns out. Well, you see on them old Model Ts right up next to the manifold there was a big nut. Take that off--disconnect that tail pipe. Of course, you had a terrible racket but until water got up that high and you didn't get stuck in a sandbar you can go out of there. So, you can go up the creek with water waist deep. Sometimes a sandbar could wash down and you might get hung up in there, but we were pretty lucky.

Gertrude wouldn't be in there with me; I'd just be going over to see her. I don't guess we ever went anywhere together in the old Model T. After a while if we did want to go somewhere, her daddy used to loan us his car--to go to church in it, or go to a movie, or something or other like that.

Married days

I don't know how much my daddy paid for rent, but I do know that later we paid $25 for rent when we got married. I don't know when but we moved out of that first house and built down there where Bessie Mosley lives now. Charlie Reed built that house. That's where I was living when I got married. The Dr. Core house up here had a big building, and then it had a string of little houses off from it and went into his office. Mr. Waddey was also living there at the time we got married, and we rented three rooms--it was the old Dr. Core office--and that was our first place to live. You would walk from his office--it was all closed in--and there was a bedroom between, but you went on into the big house then. They finally tore down the office part and left the dog trot for a while, but then they tore it all down. We didn't live there but about three months. Mr. Tom Beasley owned the place and he was in Springfield at the time. He moved back and the Waddeys had to move out and we had to move out. So we moved down where Ellie Marshall Beasley lives now. That was the old Methodist parsonage at the church.

We moved in that and stayed there about three months, and I don't know what happened there but we had to move out of it. Next, we moved upstairs in the old school building that was there at that time. There was a store down underneath, of course, and there wasn't anybody using the upstairs so we moved up there. That was in 1941. After the new school was built in 1936, they had turned the old school into a store on the first floor. We had long outside steps going up the back, and I had to carry buckets of water for my wife to wash with. After a few times of that I went and got a washing machine; that was our first washing machine. We moved three times the first year we were married, and then I had to go to the service.

We didn't have water so we didn't have a bathroom. Well, when Mr. Tom Beasley lived there he lived upstairs and ran the store downstairs. He had a bunch of kids. So, out at the back of that store he built a porch level with the upper story and then he built him a john out there, on this porch. It was a big square thing, I guess four feet square, and he walled it up with plank on all four sides up there. That was his john; they didn't have a bath, just this john. Everybody thought that that was pretty neat, having a john upstairs. Below, the john extended all the way to the ground.

I went into the service in October 1942. I went to Richmond, Virginia and stayed there about six months and then went overseas to England. I was with the aviation engineers. We weren't the air force but were connected because we built air bases for the planes. We stayed there about three years and then went to Germany before I came home. I was gone nearly four years altogether.

I got out of service in January 1946, and my brother in law owned the old house over where George Ryan lives now. It was a big two story house. Mr. Bud Walker lived there and we moved in and had just one big room and then a little room off to the side of the kitchen. We lived there until we built the house where we live now. I cut all of the framework out of beech wood from the Taylor farm, which was full of beech trees. My brother-in-law, John Edward Crafton, had a saw mill and sawed it. A fellow by the name of Jimmy Smith, a carpenter who had always worked for someone else and had never gone out on his own, built the house. It was the first one he ever built on his own. I was drilling wells at that time. I would work all week and come in on Friday night, and it would take just about everything I made to pay him for that week's work. And I believe--I wish I had kept better records--somewhere around $7000 is what that house costs me.

Well digging

Before I went to the service, I had done a little bit of everything. After I got out of school I worked in the store at Cross Keys for Harry Grigsby, and Mr. Webb, his brother in law. They owned the store up there. And then my dad, being a mechanic, had some fellow talk him into the notion of buying a well machine, for drilling wells. He said that anyone who drilled wells needed to be a mechanic. So he bought that thing. After he bought it, he had somebody else running it for him for about a year or two. That didn't pan out too good with the other fellow so I told him, "shoot, I believe I can run that thing." So we did. I took over then and so I run a well machine then, me and my dad, until I went to the service. While I was in service, then, my dad and my uncle run the well machine and when I come back I went and bought me another one. And so I drilled wells then until 1950, I guess. I bought a new factory made machine--most all old well drilling machines were home made. I went to work at the Nashville bridge company and I had another guy running it for me. [Jessie said she remembered him digging wells all around when she was little.] I went to work at Nashville Bridge in 1950 and stayed there until 1985. I was a crane operator--they called it a whirly crane operator. Most people think of a crane operator of an overhead crane.

To run the well digging machine I had a Chevrolet engine motor on the old machine. On the new machine, it had a power unit. We had a tower that was mounted on a truck. It rested on the cab of the truck and we raised it up when we got to where we were going. The towers were not quite as tall as they are now. I guess they weren't over 25 feet, or something like that. Basically, they were the same design as now. Of course, when they designed them back then they did their own thing, just about. Still, it was just a churn type drill--a hammer drill, they call it--and cable. Of course, you had to have some spring on that cable so they used a manila rope about 25 or 30 feet from the drill. You spliced the end of the steel cable--that's what gave it the spring. Back during the war, you couldn't get manila rope any more. So, my dad rigged up a set of springs across the top, out of old car springs--you know, the coil type--to give it that shock. It made a terrible racket but it worked. The new machines now have a bunch of discs at the top of the derrick where the pulley is.

The drill will turn itself most of the time because it is like a chisel. When it hits here and makes a groove, well, if it hits off just a little bit its going to spin it. You didn't have to turn it except in mud when you first started. A lot of times we didn't have much luck. Down at my place, I drilled 14 wells down at my place and still never did get enough water to run an electric pump. The old saying is, "a shoemaker's wife goes barefooted." A well digger's wife goes without water.

The Cross Keys store

The Cross Keys store, where I worked for a while, was just a long building and they had just about anything you wanted. My main job, I guess, was I went around over the country and picked up cattle and calves and hogs and carried them to Nashville. They usually went about two days a week. Instead of having all the groceries brought to them, well, you had to go to Nashville and pick them up. Course, these farmers didn't have no way of taking their produce off--cattle and eggs and all that kind of stuff. So we'd pick them up. They had about a ton and a half truck--big sides on it to carry the cattle. You'd have to wash it out before you would pick up the groceries and stuff and bring them back.

Inside the store there was one long room. They had a walkway right down the middle. They had counters on each side, the whole way. Part was closed in for candy and stuff like that and then on down further if you had over overalls and shirts and drygoods and stuff like that, they would have them stacked up on a counter--down further. I don't remember about women's cloth much--I don't believe we had any at that time. And then the hardware--they had hardware of all kind. Horseshoes came in kegs. Bales of stuff would be lined up in front of the counter. Then on one side they would have all of the canned goods, you know, that you could buy. Shelves went all the way to the ceiling. I guess the lighter cracker boxes and stuff like that would be on the shelves higher up. We had a little step stool to get the top items. Some of the older stores, if you go to some of these old towns, had a ladder that ran on a track from one end of the store to the other. [There is still one at Burwood.]

They had a big pot belly stove setting out there in the middle that we heated with. Back at the back mostly was where people would bring in a dozen eggs or ten dozen eggs and we would put them into regular egg crates. [Jessie remembered as a kid taking one or two eggs to the store if her mother would let them.] They candled the eggs that were brought in. They had a box about so big that had a light in it to tell whether an egg was bad or not. Outside they had a building where they put chickens till we got ready to carry them off. We'd catch them and put them in coops and carry them to Nashville.

While I was working in the store for Harry--we had a little pickup truck--I'd go around like over here to Ash Hill and around. I would stop at people's houses and they would say they needed coffee or I need this or that. Then, I would go back to the store and the next week I'd bring it back. That was kind of an offset from the rolling store.

Cross Keys

In Cross Keys there was the store and a blacksmith shop right across the road from us. T.R. Clendenning built him a little shack on the other side of the road there. He had a portable grinder at that time, on a truck. If a farmer wanted some feed ground they would go grind feed.

Then there was Crosslin's portable store. It was just a truck that had all the groceries that you wanted in it. It would just ride the road every day. You didn't have to call them. They called it a rolling store. You would just go out in the road and stop it. You would go in and most of the time they would have everything you wanted as far as food is concerned. I don't know if they carried milk or not. That was a big thing here in the country for a long time. A fellow by the name of Crosslin lived up here at Eagleville ran it. The people at Crosslin Lumber in Eagleville today are some of the same people. It was just a big truck like you would call a van truck now.

Working with TVA

While working at the store I was getting a dollar a day and my board, what you could eat, you know. Harry and I batched--we lived upstairs in the store. That's where I was working, but then I went to work for TVA while I was there--it must have been around 1938. When TVA started putting this light line through here it was in the summer time. Business wasn't that great at the store and TVA was trying to hire laborers. I think they were paying 47 cents an hour. I told Harry, "Lord a mercy, if I didn't have a job I'd sure go to work with 'em." A bunch of boys hung around there all the time, you know, and just worked farm labor, and didn't do hardly anything. Harry told me "we're not too busy right now; if you want to go to work for them go ahead."

So I did. I went up to Chapel Hill and signed up and I went to work for them right then. That's when we first got electricity through here. I just dug holes for the poles--dead men's holes. I never will forget, for I'd been working for Harry for about two years eating crackers and pork and beans, you know. They put you out there cutting right of way out, and in July and hot. You didn't have chain saws then. I know they put me over yonder--well, he was really nice though. The foreman told me--I think I started to work on Thursday--"I know you boys are not used to this kind of work. We'll be light on you for a while." And man, the first two days--if it had been more than two days I would never have made it. I came in at night and I fell up on that porch and I laid there. I didn't even go to bed. But after that, I finally got better.

I'll never forget one day over yonder at Terry White's, I believe. I had to dig a dead man hole, and it was about 18 inches wide and four foot long, and I guess it was four foot deep. Had this big old maple tree there and I started digging. I got down about two feet. They would put you on the job and go off and leave you, you know. I got down about two feet and I hit this soft sandstone rock. You had to pick every bit of it up. Well, I'd done about give out--that was on that first Friday, I believe. So finally the boss came around and wanted to know how I was doing. I said, "well, I'm not doing too good." He said, "well, get over there and sit down; let me help you a little bit." Well, that suited me fine; I rolled over behind that pile of dirt there in that shade tree, and when I woke up he was through. Ha! He didn't say a word though.

I don't remember where I went after that. When the TVA moved out of one area they would hire a new bunch. I guess I went to my uncle. He bought out a little old grocery store over at Arno and I think I went to work for him somewhere about that time.

The skating rinks

I didn't tell you about the skating rink. Well, they had a portable. Some guy from Alabama came up here with a portable rink, and set it up right there beside where Henry's grocery was, right next to the railroad track [in Franklin, where route 431 crosses the track now]. There's an antique shop there now. That thing was 50 by 100 feet long and under a tent. Man, it set the woods on fire! Well, after they stayed there a while a storm come through and blew it down. The people weren't able to buy a new tent and put it back. So, Henry, the man that ran the grocery store and rented them this piece of property, bought what remained off of it from them. They went back to Alabama.

Well, a few years after that I was in that store. Mr. Henry said, "I've got something you need to buy." And I said, "what it that?" and he said, "a skating rink." Well, I wound up buying it. Crazy--and we think kids do crazy things this day and time! It was stored away in a building out there. This must have been about 1947 or 1948. So, I thought--I don't know what I bought the thing for, I telling you the truth! Course, I like skating and I knew I couldn't run it. Anyway, after I bought it I found out I was in trouble so I contacted the man in Alabama who used to run it for these other fellows. And, luckily enough he was available, so he came up and talked to me. We made the deal and he took over everything--getting it out of the storage, setting it up, hunting a place to put it and all that kind of stuff. So we set up on the old school ground there in Franklin, and stayed there about two months or something like that. Didn't do too well.

So, he got out scouting around trying to find another place to put it. We went to Dickson. Of course, you've got to tear down. It took an 18 wheeler to haul all that stuff. You had your floor, and your blocks, and everything. We set up down there--that was before Clement was elected [governor of Tennessee]. He was campaigning at that time. He brought his two boys up there, I remember that. But, we did pretty good down at Dickson. Man, it went over big down there. There was excitement in those days. And crowds, the floor was full of them; I guess there was a hundred couples out there. We had a PA system and we played records. There was a floor man who skated out there with them, and they would blow a whistle if you got to going too fast.

Stayed there a while, you know, and then we went to Gallatin one time and we went to Columbia one time. But, I began to get tired of it so I just about give my part away to get out of it. I was getting tired of it. I just went to Dickson on the weekends and stayed down there. I was working at the bridge company at the time. But, it was quite exciting.

Then, after that I had little enough sense to build this one up here at Chapel Hill. There was an old boy started out--he lived up there at Jimmy Griggs'--he started out in some old building up there with, oh, maybe 15 or 20 people skating. I knew Jimmy's daddy real well and anyway, I carried a bunch of MYF [Methodist Youth Fellowship] kids up there. I had an old station wagon that held about 10 people, I guess. We carried them up there to skate and we got to talking and decided we needed a bigger place. So we got together and had this one built down there at Chapel Hill. Big rink! I guess it was about 40 or 50 by 100, or something like that. I stayed in it a while, but when this old Griggs boy that run it for me got more out of it than I did, I saw it was time for me to get out. Sometimes he'd have trouble up there with some of the boys, and he would call me at night wanting me to come up there and get them straightened out--them boys from Wheel [another community]. The first opportunity I got I sold out to him. [Jessie met Charles skating; fell in front of him.]

[Hugh: what would you pass on as words of wisdom for future generations?]

Well, I guess work hard and be honest. Be fair with people and go to church. When I started in the well machine business there were already two or three other people. I didn't know how we would work out but I know I told my daddy, "the only thing I know to do is just be fair with a fellow and be honest with him, and I believe we will be all right." And, we were never out of a job.

Bethesda as a whole is as good a place as any to live. I do a lot of looking and riding around and seeing other places. Some of the places I like, but then I get to thinking, I believe I'd rather be back here. Yeah, I'm satisfied here.

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