In Columbia County in northcentral Florida, there’s an old Baptist church and cemetery called Philippi. It was built on land donated by ancestors of my paternal grandmother around 1880. Land was deeded to the Church from John and Maddie Vinzant and Candace and Alexander Weeks on August 26th, 1879. According to references in Florida history books, a Vinzant family of five was killed by Indians and buried in unmarked graves in their yard. These were presumably among the first to be buried in Philippi, after the church was built and the cemetery added. Because of the familial connection I, my hubby, and my descendants also have access to plots and the right to be buried there if we choose to lie beside many members of my family already there.
In my writing, sometimes I have problems remembering how old I was when “such and such happened.” I’ve found a good source for these records is recorded on graveyard headstones. Since geographical distance prevents my going there in person, I spent a few minutes of my time in between appointments Tuesday browsing through online records of Philippi burials. I happened across one, Lydia, who was married to the author of today’s post by One o’the Nine. It tells the story of their meeting and subsequent first date. Originally published February 29, 1989, it shows how different courting styles were in the country long ago.
I have often wondered whatever happened to the old time country parties like we used to have for the young people? When I was a boy, every Friday or Saturday night, someone had a party at their home and everyone was invited. There was no marijuana, crack cocaine, and very seldom even alcohol at these parties. All the young people for miles around would gather at the home of the one that was giving the party and build a fire in the yard. There was no grass growing in country yards at that time. We would build a fire and play games. I remember the thrill I received when I was chosen by one of the pretty young ladies to walk a short distance down the old dirt road.
We played games like drop the handkerchief, car, and other fun games for young people in those days. No one ever got rowdy or caused any trouble because Mama and Daddy was always sitting on the front porch. I never knew a girl to get pregnant before marriage in all the years I went to school. Matter of fact I never knew any girl to get pregnant before mariage until I was at least thirty-five years old. I do wonder why? We didn’t have sex education in our school. Do you suppose it could have been we had better parents at home than we do today?
I remember one of those country parties especially. It was where I carried [took] the girl I later married on one of our first dates together. I met her that week when I went to a neighbor’s house to help him in tobacco. I always strung tobacco and after I had gotten out of the army I stayed around home for almost a year and helped many of the neighbors gather and put up their tobacco.
I remember going out to the tobacco barn that morning where all the others were waiting to start another long, hard day in tobacco. There, sitting on the tobacco tables, was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, so naturally I asked her to hand tobacco to me that day. At the end of the day when we had finished, I was amazed. I wasn’t even tired. I asked her if she would like to go to a party with me the next night. To my amazement she said “yes.”
When we arrived I stayed so close to her she never had a chance to meet anyone else. After playing a few games, the hostess brought out hot dogs and punch. There were no chairs in the yard for us to sit on, only two old logs. This beautiful young lady sat on one of the logs while I went and got us two hot dogs and two glasses of punch. I went back and sat beside her and set my glass of punch on the ground beside me.
After awhile I reached for the punch but the glass was empty. I didn’t remember drinking it, but I was so excited I wasn’t sure, so I went and got another glass full and set it down again beside me. After a few minutes I reached for my punch again, but I only had half a glass. I couldn’t remember drinking it, but I was so excited I thought maybe I had, so I went back for another.
This time I was going to finish drinking the glass of punch, but just as I began to drink it, the young lady said with a slow Georgia drawl “a cat has been drinking out of your glass.” Well, it didn’t really matter as long as I could be with her. This beautiful young lady became Mrs. One O’the Nine. We were very happy for twenty-six years. She died in 1977 with leukemia. It all began at an old country party.
Postscript: This observance alludes to the fact that there weren’t many pre-marital pregnancies at the time, and he actually feels there were NONE. While it may be true there was less premarital sex at the time, I’m quite certain it was going on. I have my own memories of many hurried-up weddings, referred to as “shotgun” weddings, with sometimes very unwilling grooms and unhappy brides. Anywhere from seven to nine months later, a little young’un came along. My grandmother, who had the reputation of being almost saintly because she never showed anger and never gossipped, wryly observed once that “the second, third and so-on, child usually took nine months to come to term. But the first could come at anytime!”
As you read the stories of One o’the Nine, you can’t help but note how skewed some of their views were. The rural existence of their coming-of-age years were no doubt more innocent than the world they would encounter as adults. Having come from the same background, I can appreciate the culture shock they must have experienced. I believe that may help explain their rose-colored view of the 1930’s compared with the 1980’s or even now. The worldview they seemed to embrace was either black or white. They knew without a doubt somehow, that everyone else out there–except them–were indulging in drugs and drinking, and weren’t properly watching out for the children. I hope they understood and recognized the many different shades of grey in the world by the time they died.