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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice Grogan Hardin, May 2, 1980. Interview H-0248. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Pleasures and struggles of farm life

Hardin reveals the two sides of a farm life in this excerpt. On one hand, she describes an idyllic childhood, replete with charming details: picking blackberries and singing, playing music as a family, doing homework by kerosene light. On the other hand, she recalls working past dark in the fields, a tornado that destroyed her home, and the death of many of her family members.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice Grogan Hardin, May 2, 1980. Interview H-0248. 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

. . . part of Greenville County, and my daddy was a farmer. He had eight children, five boys and three girls. I was the oldest girl. I went to work helping my mother around the house when I was five years old. Then when I got old enough to pick cotton, I went to the field and picked cotton. And we'd pick cotton all day, and we'd come in and have an hour for dinner. And during blackberry time, we'd pick blackberries during that hour. And if it wasn't blackberry time, we'd sing. I'd play the organ, and we'd sing. And we sung the old-timey songs like "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" and "Bringing in the Sheaves" and "Down at the Cross", just old-timey songs like that. My mother was a good singer. My daddy played the violin, and this neighbor of ours played the violin, and I played the organ. And we'd go around and have parties and play for people. Then we'd play for square dances. Then as we grew up and got older, the family would all work: the boys and the sisters, too, as they got old enough to work. I had four brothers older than I am; one was younger than me. We had a good time; it was a happy time. My daddy thrashed his own wheat most of the time. The thrashers would come and thrash wheat all day long. My mother and whoever she could get to help her fix dinner would cook dinner for all the workers. Then when we got older we moved closer in the country to Greenville, and we still farmed while we was there. All of us children went to school. We canned everything we ate. Daddy raised everything he ate. He raised his hogs; he raised his cattle. And we canned vegetables, and we canned fruits, dried apples, dried peaches, and just had everything at home. Times would get hard sometimes, but we still had our food at home. We didn't have water everywhere we lived close to the house. We'd carry it from a spring. We'd bring several pails full of water, enough to do till the next morning. That was the children's jobs, to go get water the next morning before we went to the field to work. And we'd go then to the field and work till dinnertime, and then if my mother was out of water we had to bring water up enough to do her then till night. Sometimes in the evening she'd come to the field and help us. And if she didn't have time, she'd stay at home, and she had a big job at home. Because there was eight of us children, and my grandmother stayed with us. And most of the time my daddy had a man that lived with us and helped him on the farm all the time. We moved down on Guilty Creek, down this side of Mauldin, and we was living there, and the tornado come. It tore up everything we had, blowed away everything we had, half of our house and everything. Then we moved to another place, and we lived there for about two or three years, and then we moved to the Woodside cotton mill. Daddy had about five or six hands to go to work in the mill at one time. We lived at the cotton mill then until my daddy got sick, and he died. In about three years, my mother died. Then Grover and me took the three children, and we raised them until they got married. Then after they got married, me and Grover bought a house. We never was able to buy one until our families was married off, because we raised three families. I met Grover in a cafe. I didn't speak to him, but I knew I loved him. We didn't see each other any more for about three months, and I was working in the mill. And he come and laid over. I was looking out the window where I was at. So in three months we got married. We had three children. I've got a little boy dead, and I've got two girls living. We've got a wonderful family. We've got a happy family. And I've got five grandchildren. I have a lot of people dead in my family, but let's don't talk about that. There's so much I wanted to tell you, and now I can't think of none of it. [Chuckle] [Interruption]
In the country, how we did to cool our things, we'd put our butter in a gallon bucket and put a lid on it and let it down in the well, or take it to the spring. And if we was lucky, it didn't come a gully-washer and wash it away [laughter] while we was in the field. We'd keep it cold. We didn't have no ice then. Of course, for years later they had these old-timey iceboxes. You bought chunks of ice and put in it and kept your food cool. When my daddy would kill a cow, he would have to sell it out right then because he had nowhere to keep it. When he'd kill the hogs, he could cure them and keep the meat all right if it was cold weather. But outside of that, he had to sell his calves out when he'd kill them. Back then they didn't know what inspection was so they didn't inspect it, but now you couldn't do that at all. That was about sixty years ago, because I'm sixty-nine now. Back then they did a lot of things they had to do that they don't have to do now. We cooked on stoves that you put wood in to cook; you didn't have electric stoves. And you burnt lamps to read by at night, to do your school lessons by.
Kerosene lamps. We didn't have any screen doors. We didn't have any screen windows or anything like that. It's just a lot of difference now to what it was back then.