I have been recently intrigued by a series about WWII on the BBC, entitled Foyle’s War, which shows the hardships endured by the English. It made me think about the extent of blood and treasure that the European countries sacrificed. Here in the good ol’ USA, my favorite country, we did participate but not in our cities, not huddled in bomb shelters. There were often goods and services that we lived without; we lost friends and family members like my uncles, George and James. And the stress of combat had untold effect on hundreds of thousands. We paid attention via newspapers and radio, but a large majority were protected from the horror of war. Blessings to be thankful for not to apologize for, I might add.
We all have problems unique to our situation, and accept our daily assignment to handle them. Farmers grow food for their families first and then for sale to the community. We take care of our home first so we have strength to share. And so the folks on Brackett Town Road and their community and the surrounding communities of Glenwood, Marion, Dysartsville, and Rutherfordton kept on going. Brackett Town Rd did not get electricity until 1951, and I cannot imagine the daily chores affected by that.
A couple weeks ago, I read an article by Rebecca Hare Lehman in the The McDowell News that featured a window into the past at a similar period on the calendar. Readers were reminded that segregation was a factor for many wanting to educate their children. Closing the “Old Fort and Dysartsville Negro schools” to consolidate the classes at Hudgins School in Marion in 1950 put a hardship on many families. Few had cars and the county did not have bus service for the black folks who wanted to live in the country. Maybe that’s why some of the Brackett Town families moved to Detroit.
Col. Daniel Adams was one of the most respectable citizens of Old Fort and “worked to bring water, electricity and telephone service to town.” He published his opinion in the local newspaper that the razing of the black schools was “disgraceful.” Encouraged by this support in 1950, a small group bravely marched down main street four years before the Supreme Court decision that desegregated American Schools. (See http://mcdowellhistory.com and McDowell County Oral History)
There must have been a shortage of adults because of the war. Brice drove the school bus to the Glenwood high school where he was zoned, about fifteen miles away. At sixteen. “The Superintendent of schools helped me and lots of teens get a license.” (Like his distant cousin Mildred Rhom, another friend of mine). He kept the bus at home, and in the morning drove down Brackett Town Rd, right on Vein Mtn Rd, and passed property that had been mined in the last century (today mined by the Lost Dutchman Mining Association out of California–there is a huge recreational mining interest across the country). Brice would turn to the right on Landis Loop, across from the two story white frame farmhouse where Richard Buchanan lived, and he made all the bus stops between there and Dysartsville.
“I picked up kids going to Glenwood, where I just went on in to my classes. Left the bus in the parking lot.” (Note: the county would later close Glenwood to consolidate all high schools to the Marion High School. With bus service. The Glenwood High School became an elementary school. A newer one stands today looking much like the one my children went to in the ’80’s in Tennessee. I suspect a sale on school blueprints.)
“Across from the school, there was a store owned by Reid Holland,” remembered Brice. “We weren’t allowed to cross the highway. We’d just go to the edge of the pavement and holler and they’d bring us ice cream. Say you had an hour for lunch. Mr. Holland would be busy that hour, makin’ money. He was truckin’ back and forth across that road sellin’ candy and ice cream as fast as he could. A nickel was hard to come by.” Back then a nickel bought a Coke. I don’t know how much cigarettes were, but it was clearly cool to smoke them. Like icons Humphrey Bogart or James Dean.
Nora remembers the Hollands’ story because she wrote about them for the McDowell County Quilt Trail. “It was the first country store built on Old Hiway 221 in Glenwood, and it opened in the 1930’s. It was the heart of this area. He sold chicken feed, fabric, nails, hardware, groceries. After WWII, the extension office in Raleigh started a program for the ladies so they could raise chickens to eat, and they could sell eggs. It provided income for the family. The feed that they bought was packaged in cotton printed fabric. My Dad would go to the store, buy the chicken feed in the same print so the ladies could make curtains or clothes for the family.”
“Those of us who grew up in that era can look at a quilt and recognize patterns that were worn by family. Someone might say, ‘Mama had a dress like that,’ and it starts the memories. The Hollands sold things on credit, and someone couldn’t pay their debt. They settled it with a Singer sewing machine. And so Mr. Holland sold the feed, and his wife made clothes for everyone in the community who didn’t have a sewing machine. Mrs. Holland put it out in the store, and she would sew while she was helping mind the store.”
Nora said, “Her daughter lives in the home now, and she brought out a quilt that her mother had made. We took a picture of it and went back and looked through all the quilt books. Sure enough, there was one like it called Scrap Quilt. She and her brother made a quilt block of that pattern and put it on the old feed store that had been falling down. The quilt opened up a history for her that she had forgotten or pushed to the side. Now they are proud of that building and the daily lives it represents.” And I salute them for that pride in their history. (See www.mcdowellquilttrail.org)
When my sister went to Great Britain, she heard Europeans refer to us as the new world. And you can understand their perspective when you walk into their buildings that are older than our Constitution. The people who built the castles and cathedrals were craftsmen. She stayed in an inn that was built in the 1300’s. They do not rush to tear down a building that can be used. I admire their respect of history. Perhaps Americans have a different attitude about lifespan value. I see a lot of demolition projects. Who believes change is always for the good?
But I left Brice at school, and in the afternoon he “hauled kids to Dysartville, twenty miles away, south on Hiway 64,” past the house of the Allison family who lived behind the clapboard Dysartsville Baptist Church built in the mid 1800’s. Mike still lives there. This is another local family who appreciates their history.
Women of the church would meet in his mother’s home on Wednesday, bringing their lunches, and spend the entire day working on quilts to sell for the new brick church they wanted. The quilt frame was attached to the ceiling, on four hooks. They rolled it down to work on it, and rolled it up to the ceiling to store until they were ready to quilt again. Before Pat Allison Arrowood was born, her mother made a quilt with a “Little Dutch Girl” pattern. A quilt that got a lot of wear in a family of six children. Now the design is on a 3×3 quilt block that hangs on the exterior wall of her home on Brackett Town Rd, across from the Sprouse farm. (Photos of this to come later, along with more quilting stories and blocks)
I have to find Brice. I left him on the bus again. In Dysartsville, he was picking up the younger children and driving them home. One of his riders was a “skinny thing, not as big as she is now.” (Maybe 110 pounds today) “She walked up to the front of the bus as I was drivin’ and said, ‘Listen here, mister,’ to ME. ‘You went off and left my sister. You go back and get her or I’m gonna knock you in the head.’ So I looked around and sure enough, sister wasn’t on the bus. I had to go back to school. I got there and the teacher was standing outside holdin’ sister’s hand who was screamin’ bloody murder.” (This bold, protective big sister, Iva Arrowood, would later on become Brice’s wife for 62 years. She took good care of him, too.)