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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 Bill Wiley

I was born in 1910 in the Flat Creek community. We moved to Bethesda community when I was one year old, to the T.C. Bond farm. We lived in the house over the hill from where you [Hugh] live now. It joined the old Will Creswell farm. [It is now owned by the Hagewoods.] They moved the old house out that we lived in. It was over on the back side and the farm we lived on joined the Roy Creswell place. I started to Bethesda school in 1916.

We lived up in the valley till I was ready for the seventh grade, and then we moved. And then we moved back there. We stayed away for eight years and moved back and stayed there four more years. I spent my entire early life within ten miles of Bethesda. My father was a farmer. He wasn't into milking; he was just a general farmer. Raised tobacco, corn, and stuff like that, and worked on the farm.

There were ten children in my family, six girls and four boys. I had two girls and one boy and three grandchildren, one of them dead.


I was a farmer till I was about 50 years old, and I started carpentering. That's what I did the rest of my career. General carpentry. Building houses. [Jessie: and every cabinet in Bethesda probably, every home, just about.] Just about. Miss Lorine Bond asked me one time when I was building cabinets in Billy Giles vacation house and she was standing there watching me, "where did you learn that?" I said. "Miss Lorine, going to school to Bethesda; didn't you learn nothing out of that?" She said, "nothing like that!" Ha!

I guess I just decided to do something else and started carpentry. When I was farming my main sources of income were raising tobacco and running a dairy. I run a grade A dairy my last farming years. John William Beasley and myself, over on Byrd Lane where Clyde Lynch lives, right around from Miss Leo Bond's, the next house and barn on the other side. When I left there I went to carpentry. I lived there four years. I just picked carpentry up. I went to work with other carpenters who taught me a lot. Then I went out on my own and had my own crew. John Neal and Henry Wiley worked with me. I worked with Jimmy Maxwell. In fact, I went to work with his daddy, Mack Maxwell, [Jessie: he built our house.] Jimmy was just a boy. I worked with them and after Jimmy took the business over I worked for him. [As of this writing, Jimmy's son Jim has since taken over most of the business.] After I quit working for them I worked for myself. During the time between he and his daddy I did have my own crew, but then Jimmy would call me and I'd go back and work for him. Then I retired when I was 65 and stayed retired about six months, I reckon, and went back to work and I worked on until I was 77. I worked for Ralph Gedding. We did finish work in houses.

One thing about the Maxwells. Jim and his daddy and Jimmy and all of them--whatever they tell you, you can depend on. I told some people if you want a house built, just turn it over to them and go on to Florida or somewhere else and stay away from it. And when you come back they will have it ready for you to move in and there won't be a nail left out of it. Every thing will be in it and just a little bit more than they promised they would. But, you don't find all builders that way. [Hugh: they certainly did a fantastic job on the house they built for us.]

Old Bethesda school

I remember about the old Bethesda school. Back then there weren't any automobiles. We all walked, rode horseback, or went in buggies. There was a row of stables that ran from the back of the school plumb down to the other line, just stable after stable. That row of stables separated the boys and the girls. The boys stayed on their side of the stables and weren't allowed on the other side. The girls stayed on their side when they were outside. Boys and girls didn't play together. The stables were set back away from the road, and there was an old store over there, Jim Grigsby's old store.

The row of stables split the school property just half open. Each side had a basketball court--they played basketball outdoors. The team that I remember was Miss Leo, Miss Cleo, and Miss Ella Francis (Miss Leo's sister) Miss Bessie Mosley, and my sister. They were the main team. The reason I remember that was that they didn't lose a game all the year. They played other schools, just like they do now, but they played on this open court.

The old school had three rooms to it, and three teachers. There was an auditorium downstairs, that was the principal's office. The principal taught then just like other teachers. We didn't have just a principal that set back in his office--he was a teacher. The first four grades went upstairs. After you finished that you came down and went in over here in this wing for four years, through the eighth. And then you went on in to the principal. Most of the time the teachers were women and the principal a man. Mr. Marvin Clendenny was the only man teacher that I remember who taught the middle grades. There was a little old small music room in addition to those three rooms. Miss Elizabeth Howser was the music teacher, I believe. She didn't marry until she retired. He husband died last year.

The water came from a spring down to the back of the old Dr. Core place. We carried water from there. The spring branch ran from there out into the creek that is there. I am sure the spring is still there, but I don't know if it is still kept up. There was a spring house with walls of limestone rock. The school children would go and get the water. We would carry it in buckets, and then we had coolers. Of course, we didn't have ice, but we would bring it up and put it in those coolers. They were insulated and would keep the water the temperature that you brought it from the spring.

All of the rest facilities were outhouses. We didn't have any indoor toilets. The outhouses were two-holers, usually. One outhouse was on each side of the row of stables.

The heating of the school was done with pot bellied heaters. They burned coal. You would have a student appointed to go early and build fires in all the rooms; each room had a pot bellied heater. Children come in frozen, some of them with their hands aching and a-crying. The teachers would have to baby them and get their hands warmed up.

School discipline

[Jessie: did you ever get any spankings?] Did I! You couldn't do things today like they did then. If you did just a small thing, your teacher could handle it. But if it was sort of a major problem they sent you to the principal. A small thing might be talking or throwing paper wads or something like that, or setting down a pin for somebody to set down on. That might get you two or three licks. Most of the women teachers would hold your hand back and take a foot ruler and hit you a few pecks in the hand. Of course, that didn't hurt, but if you had to go to the principal you didn't want to go there any more. Ha! I never did have to go to the principal in Bethesda, but after I transferred to Harpeth--down here where the Harpeth Baptist church is, and where I went in about the seventh or eighth grade--Miss Bessie Bonds gave me a whipping. She ate me up pretty good. Preston Scales was the principal there then, and she sent me and another boy to him one day. He had a paddle that he used on you. He would take you by the back of the neck and bend you over and when he turned you loose you didn't want to go back in there no more. You couldn't do that any more, but that was the way then.

I remember one incident. They had a rule at school that if you came by the school and used some sort of a foul name for the school, they would catch you and carry you to the creek and dunk you. The school teachers supervising would do this. Garrett Reed was the teacher at the time of this incident, and Owen Farrar came by in a buggy. He repeated some of this stuff that they didn't allow, and the older boys--James Bond, Leonard Grigsby, and Bill Eggelston and a bunch of them--got on horses and run him down. He was in a buggy. They caught him over here somewhere and were going to take him to the creek and give him a ducking. Well, he begged off. He was going to Franklin to get his wife some medicine. He said he would come down some day and take his medicine.

He knew that was the school rules. So one day, they called from up there at Cross Keys store. He said, "I'm up here at the store; come on up here and we'll go to the creek and get it over with." Well, they went and they had a gang ready for them. These school boys came out with wet tails. Owen had a bunch of boys--George Ladd, Charlie Trice, Grover Trice, Laban Daniels, and all of them. Jessie, your daddy was in on this; he got ducked. And that bunch ducked these boys. It didn't matter who talked against the school, whether they were a student or not. After that, you see, they caught them one at a time. If they ever came to Bethesda they would get them.

There is a place right down here where you turn off to go down to Miss Bessie Mosley's. They called it the Beech Hole. They would carry them down there and four boys would get them by their legs and arms and give them a swing, and whop them off in there, you know. The teacher and the whole school--they would turn out the school to go down and watch them. They had a picnic out of it! Talk about Grover Trice, he brought him some extra clothes and said, "C-C-C-Come on boys and-and-and I'm ready for my medicine." They went down there and he did. They let him go round and change clothes before he went home. And, nobody got mad about it. But, they would kill you now if you did that.

Phosphate mining

They mined phosphate up there on the old Crafton place. That was before my time. The old signs were still there where they mined it. Later years in the forties they started mining it again, a different type. I do remember my daddy saying the Mr. Joe Harmon lived down here at Duplex. He used his wagon and would haul phosphate. They said he was always late getting there. He told them one morning, "the reason I was so late, I wake my wife up and every one of my children and kiss them good-bye before I leave." There was an old Negro there who said, "Mr. Joe, that's the reason you is always so late. Takes you a long time to get around to kissin'."

The roads in Bethesda

I started out walking and then I finally got a horse and buggy. At times I would walk ten miles. I rode a mule lots of miles. I was living down here where Lundy "Beater" Crafton lived. It was Jimmie Core's, Dr. Core's wife, place. She was born and raised there. I was walking when I started courting but my main courting days were done in a horse and buggy. My wife lived over in Maury county. We went places that some people wouldn't think about going in an automobile now. Oh, that is too far. It didn't get too far. I would hitch up a horse and go to Columbia.

The roads were just gravel roads. They had a certain fellow appointed over the roads. He took his so many miles of the road. Then, people would haul gravel out of the creek. This creek right down here [Beech Creek] must have had millions of wagon loads of gravel hauled out. Through the summer time, after the farmers would get caught up with their crops, they would hire to this superintendent to haul gravel out of the creeks. They would stockpile gravel along the roads where they could get to them all the winter, to keep the roads up. That was the way we would make a little extra money through the summer, after the crops were caught up. Back then you had to pay a poll tax to vote--I think it was $4--or you could work on the road four days and you didn't have to pay that. That was the way you paid your poll tax. If you owned a wagon and team you could us them and get your time in earlier, by using your wagon and team. But you either had to pay that poll tax or have a receipt that showed that you worked the road so many days, to vote.

Right over here on the hill on the other side of Reed Road there was a toll gate. You never saw a toll gate like that. It was an old pole, a post with a big bar through it pulling down over the road. A fellow, Mr. Bruce, set there and kept it. When people come along he charged you a dime to get under. That was what they took to pay for keeping the road up.


What was a wedding like? The couple either went to a magistrate or a preacher--just went to their home and he performed a ceremony. They didn't have anything else. The only church wedding that I remember was Mr. Gordon McCord and Miss Mary. They had theirs at the Presbyterian church. They turned school out and let the whole school go up there. That was the only wedding like that.

Boys and girls back then would go to magistrates--I think they call them something else now--and they performed the marriage. [Jessie: did they have any kind of celebration after that?] Why, no! They went back to work--they didn't have any money. There wasn't any money and everybody had to work. I got married on the Saturday before Easter and Monday morning I went right on back to work just like I did the other days. There wasn't any money. That was in the depression. Didn't anybody have any money to take trips or anything like that on. Ninety percent of them married and didn't even give the girl a diamond. Some of them made homemade wedding bands. Lots of people got married and after being married got able and bought the rings.

Those were what they called the Hoover days, with the Republican president. Mr. Lemming Marvin was working at Franklin at the farm store. He said that Christmas was coming on and the boss told him that they had a case of ammunition coming in--gun shells and stuff like that--for Christmas. There had just been an election and another Republican president had been elected. Mr. Lemming told the boss, "save me a case of those shells." When he was asked why he wanted so many, he said, "well, I had to run my rabbits down during the Hoover days, I don't want to have to do that again." Ha. Ha. Now those were rough days. They were good in a way.


At Christmas we got a little fruit and maybe a couple of little toys. That was it. I remember getting up and going out and finding reindeer tracks in the snow and the sled tracks. I came back in and said, "yeah, I saw where they went around the house." A little fruit and maybe a toy or two to play with, that was it. We didn't have any trees like they do now. We did hang up a stocking. Children wore long black stockings back then. You would hang that stocking up and you would have the fruit and stuff in there in the morning. If you had been sort of a naughty boy there would be a switch sticking down in there. Ha! That about the way the Christmases were. They always had a big family get together on Christmas. Big dinner. Some of the children may have married and left or whatever but you always had that big Christmas dinner. A typical dinner was maybe twelve or fifteen people. Dinner was about like it is now; beans and potatoes and whatever, always had cake, and always had ham. Of course, farmers always raised their own hogs and killed their own meat, you know. We'd always have a ham for Christmas, and might have a turkey or chicken.

Doctors and hospitals

My first child was born at home. There wasn't a hospital this side of Nashville. Old Dr. Woodward delivered my first one, Willene. Twenty five dollars was his fee. Five years later Dale was born. Williamson County had a hospital at the time. Dr. Guffie was the doctor. The hospital bill was thirty five dollars. Fulton Beasley was at the time working at the funeral parlor that Mr. Cotton owned, right across from the old hospital. Fulton had an ambulance and I asked him what he would charge me to carry my wife and baby home, ten miles out from Franklin. He said three dollars. And when we got home, he even carried the baby in the house. I remember that just as well. Linda, my youngest one, was born in Williamson county hospital.

Williamson County didn't have a hospital then. We married in 1933 and had been married a couple years and were living where Billy Giles lives when my wife got sick and had to go to a hospital. Dr. Eggelston and Mr Tom Beasley came and carried her to the old Protestant Hospital, which is Baptist Hospital now, to take care of her that night. That was the fall of 1935, and there was not a hospital at Franklin then.

Roosevelt days

After Roosevelt was elected everything completely changed. He set up projects called CC [Civilian Conservation Corps]Camps. Boys who weren't in school joined the CC Camps and cleared right of way for roads and stuff like that, to give them something to do and to make a little money. If a man had a family they would let him work on these roads. According to the size of his family, you got to work so many days. If it was just a man and his wife, they would let him work two days. They paid I think $4 a day. Then $8 a week would buy them enough groceries at that time to carry them a week. If you had three or four children maybe you would go to work three or four days. You could make enough to feed your family. They had camps for the boys. If you had a family, you just stayed home and worked in your area. They built the Cross Keys Road from Cross Keys through to Flat Creek Road during that time. People in that area got to work on that road.

[Hugh: were there other projects in this area?] Ha! You were talking about the outhouses. People who were just renters like we were didn't have a decent outhouse. They set up a place and they built these little outdoor toilets, and they gave them to people. That was part of the project that Roosevelt started. Then, you did some kind of improvement to your farm to match it. That was the way it was. Ok, that's when they first started to put so much of your land in what they called the "soil bank". People had to work the land to death back then to have enough tillable land for the farmer to make a living. Roosevelt set up a fund and the government would pay you so much if you would rest the field. You set the field aside, sow it in grass or something, and let it rest. The government would pay you a percentage on that land while you were resting it.

My son and I had a farm down in Hickman county a few years ago. There was one blacktop road down there, Gray's Bend Road, the only rural asphalt road down in there. They said the CC boys built that road. There were no camps around Bethesda; I don't know where the closest one was. It wasn't in Williamson County, anyway.

The toilet business was WPA. [Works Progress Administration] They also had projects where women would get together and can food, to be distributed out to people. [Jessie: I remember my mother doing some canning at Flat Creek school when I was little.] They would pay them to do the canning. It was another project to help poor people get on their feet. All the projects were to keep people from starving to death.

They had a program that they would lend you money to buy a farm with. The government would lend you money and you would pay it back as you made it on the farm. They didn't just bind you down; you just paid so much and so much interest. It was all figured in to start with. It had the payments down to where you could afford to do it. That's the way a whole lot of people got on their feet and own farms today, big farmers who would never have had a farm if it hadn't been for that. [Hugh: that may have been the NRA, National Recovery Act.]

We had two stores in Bethesda in about the twenties. Mr. Jim Grigsby ran one of them. Mr. Leonard Grigsby ran the main store, the bigger store.

[Hugh: and how would you sum up your philosophy of life?]

Just to be honest with everybody.

I don't guess you'll have this in the book [Jessie: "ever what you are saying we put it in that book."] but I heard on TV two guys were talking and one said to the other that he had decided that the best policy in life was to be honest with everybody. The other guy said, "why, man I'm a used car salesman!" Ha! Ha! Ha! He couldn't do that. He couldn't be honest.

But I'm trying to be like that. I'm trying to be honest with everybody in all of my dealings.

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