Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Christmas in early twentieth-century Bynum, North Carolina

Eula remembers the Christmastimes of her childhood in Bynum, North Carolina. She recalls plentiful food, trees decorated with popcorn, and a common Christmas tree at the community church. As she reminisces, Eula regrets that generations later, children seem to have lost their ability to play.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JIM LELOUDIS:
What were the other holidays like in your house?
EULA DURHAM:
Oh Lord, when Christmas come, Mama she'd start cooking about a week before Christmas. And Papa then raised his own hogs and things, and he'd raise them old big hogs. Mama'd cook a ham, she'd make every kind of cake in the world you could think of, and along then people didn't have freezers—they canned everything. Papa always had a big garden and she'd cook up a big Christmas dinner. You couldn't go to the store and buy beef like you can now. This old man brought it around that killed his own cows. He brought it around in a truck, and he'd cut you off a hunk and sell it to you. Mama'd get a big hunk of that, make a big pot of beef hash. Oh, we thought we was in heaven then. Never seen a apple or orange on Christmas. I didn't even know they had apples and oranges only what growed out of them trees around the house, for Christmas. And now younguns has them every day. Everything. Shoot.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the way you celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving change any once you moved into Bynum?
EULA DURHAM:
Well, not much, cause my daddy was the kind that he celebrated every holiday. Every holiday. We'd go to church up there at Rocky Springs Christmas night. They'd have a Christmas tree reached the top of the church, and everything in the world weren't put down under the tree like it is now, it was hung on that tree. And you'd stay up there half the night. You thought you was something then. I tell you, you couldn't wait to get up there to them Christmas trees.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You didn't have a Christmas tree at your house then?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah. We'd make a Christmas tree, go out in the woods and cut us a tree, and string popcorn. You didn't have no decorations then on the tree, you'd string popcorn and take paper and cut it up in little pieces and glue them together to make rings and hook them together. And take old crayons and color all them rings a different color, you know. String them around on it. You didn't have no—what decoration you had was home-made decoration. You couldn't go buy decorations or nothing like that and put on a tree.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You were talking about presents being hung on the tree at the church.
EULA DURHAM:
They'd tie them on the limbs, on the cedar tree, you know.
JIM LELOUDIS:
But would your family have their presents on that tree?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, everybody would take their presents to church, you know. And have a big Christmas tree at the church. All that went to church. And then they'd have a program in there like they do now, only now they just have a little bitty tree and stick every little package down under the tree and all and don't have them hanging up in the tree. And this here woman that lived up over there above us, she was kind of the head of the church. it would tickle her to death. She had a little boy he was about four years old. And she got him a double-barrel shotgun, put it on this tree. And somebody would get up there and take the presents and hand them to somebody. And they'd read the name out and somebody'd carry it to them. They got this double-barrel shotgun off, and old man Jim Baker, an old man that used to go to church there, he was the one that read the names. He read that name out, he says, "E. Landon Tippett." She jumped up in the church said, "That's my boy! That's my boy! That's his shotgun! I got him that shotgun and I paid fifteen dollars for it!" Along then fifteen dollars was a hundred now, and I won't never forget that thing as long as I live. Every time I see that boy I think about it. And I was telling this girl friend of mine about that, and every time she sees him, that's what she'll say. She said, "Lord, I'd love to have come along about that time." I tell you, Lord, we had the best time at church on Sunday evenings. Crack hickory nuts or play games and things. Younguns now don't even have a good time like they used to. They got to get out, get into some kind of meanness. And, would go up there and play. The Sunday School teacher, she would have a picnic about every Saturday for them all. She worked down there in the mill. She'd have a big picnic for us, we'd go up there and she'd have home-made cookies, peanut butter and crackers, and Lord, us younguns thought we was in heaven. Get up there at that picnic with her.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What types of games did you play?
EULA DURHAM:
We played jack rock, hopscotch, things like that. That was the only kind of games we knowed anything about.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What was jack rock?
EULA DURHAM:
See, you got five rocks—you got six rocks. Well, you throw up one rock and grab one and catch that rock when it comes back down. One. Then you'll throw it up again and catch two. And throw it up again and catch three. And then you bob the jack to catch all four.
VERNON DURHAM:
I thought you had to catch them on the back of your hand.
EULA DURHAM:
You do when you throw them up. They're little bitty ones. You throw them up and catch them on the back of your hand and you do it three times and then you throw them out. Then you catch the big rock up. Throw it up and get one, and get two, then get three. Then you have four down there. You throw the rock up and grab the four and catch that rock. They call that bob-jacking. That's what we'd play.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What other type things did kids do to entertain themselves?
EULA DURHAM:
Well, they played gulley march. Over there where we lived there was a field on each side and then a big old gully went down. Well, if you could run and jump that gully while the rest of them would march under you—if you could run and jump over and not him nary one of them, you'd gully marched.
JIM LELOUDIS:
We used to play something like that in the swimming pool. Not far from it.
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, that's what they used to call gully march. Lord, had the best time. And they'd start getting up a Christmas program up there long about the first of December. And you'd go up there about two nights a week and practice, and on Sunday evening and practice. Oh, we thought we was having the best time—well, we was. We was having the best time of our life right there.
JIM LELOUDIS:
You'd do Christmas plays?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, things like that.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How about older people—in their teens? What did they do?
EULA DURHAM:
Well, they'd have home parties and played games and things like that. Make home-made cookies or home-made candy and serve it.