Friday, September 30, 2011

Vera Taylor Oden's Memoir (SECTIONS XI, XII and XIII)

This posting contains sections eleven, twelve and thirteen of twenty-one sections that describe life in Sugar Creek, Louisiana prior to 1902. If you haven't read the post about the significance of her memoir, click here.



The second floor of our house was floored and had windows but was not finished. I think the men slept up there, and the girls down stairs. Our house was built according to the prevailing style at that time. A front porch all across the front of the house, an open central hall with staircase enclosed, two rooms on each side of the hall and dining room and kitchen continuing on one side with porch and bannisters opposite them. Of course the well opposite the kitchen door. Later we built a servant room with fire place next to the kitchen, but I don't think it was used for a servant much. There was a cellar underneath it which was built for storms, but I don't remember going into it but once. In rainy weather it would have water in it and Mamma was afraid some of us would drown. (Also,) there was a picket fence around our house and cape jasmine bushes lined the walk from the gate to the house.


On summer nights the family sat on the front porch while we children played games in the yard. A favorite was "Molly, Molly Bright, can I come home tonight. Yes, if your legs are long and light, but watch for witches on the way." Then a race from the gate to the steps before being caught by those hiding behind the cape jasmine bushes. It was more fun when Aunt Belle's children were with us. They were so near, we saw them nearly ever day. There was a small thicket between our houses where we would meet to play, also a branch where we caught crawfish. In our yard was a potato house which was seldom used, so it served as a playhouse for us. From time to time it was variously used for theatricals, with crocus sack curtains, a bakery where molded mud cakes were sold, beautifully decorated with berries and flowers, a store, and a photographer's studio, after an itinerant photographer pitched his tent near Papa's store and made tin type pictures. Of course we had our pictures made, so that gave us the idea. We galloped over the yard on stick horses and played under the house. I was always afraid I would crawl under a sill too low and might not find my way out again. We played dolls, usually china dolls, but we did have some big dolls which were too pretty to play with. We once had a doll wedding at Anniebel's house. Her cousin, who was visiting her, made costumes for the bride and groom and attendants. They were small stand-up dolls. We loved to play in the cotton seed house because we could mold the cotton seed into beds, tables, chairs, etc. We could also climb up onto the rafters and jump down into the cotton seed. It was important to wear cotton dresses so the lint wouldn't stick to them.


Mamma used to take us and go to see Miss Addie (Mrs. Sherard) and Florrie. We loved playing at Florries because she had a tiny wood burning stove on which we could cook. Florrie says when we got everything out, it would be time to leave and she would have to clean up. The Sherards and Youngbloods lived about a mile away from us and were close life-long friends. I think the Taylors and Sherrards came from Georgia together. Mr. Sherard also owned a store about a mile from us. Mrs. Reid was the wife of a doctor, so always had lots of home remedies. She made Mullen tea and chamomile tea, I don't know what for but for sore throat she mopped it with a preparation made from Rod Oak bark and Slippery Elm bark. She carried a pair of tweezers in her satchel, and it seemed I always had a tooth that needed pulling.

Mr. Sherard's sister, Mrs. Youngblood, lived just across the road. Her husband died early leaving her a young widow with two sons, Claude and Dee. Florrie had a chair swing under a big oak which we enjoyed, and I thought Miss. Addie's tea cakes and plum preserves were the best. I especially remember Aunt Belle's ginger bread and doughnuts. Maybe Mamma's were just as good, but they tasted better away from home.


After reading section XII (Childhood Games) am I now quite taken by the game "Molly, Molly Bright." I spoke with my grandmother about it, and she says that she seems to remember hearing it in her childhood. So I did what any modern, internet-loving, red-headed, determined, old-house-loving renovator would do. I googled the name "Molly, Molly Bright." And here's what I found...

(photo above taken from this book entitled CHILDREN'S GAMES AND RHYMES, published by ARNO PRESS)

The link to the above book will lead you to a fabulous compilation of North Carolina folklore, which is rather fascinating when you realize that the Taylor family moved to Sugar Creek, Louisiana from Georgia. (For those of us that are geographically challenged, North Carolina and Georgia share a common border.) It's very easy for us to assume that the Taylors brought "Molly, Molly Bright" with them when they moved to Louisiana, though the children (Mrs. Vera included) could have easily learned this game from other immigrants to this area. A very large percentage of the early settlers (of european blood) in northern Louisiana were indeed of Scotch/Irish/Welsh descent and moved her from North Carolina. In fact, my family's Scotch/Irish/Cherokee Indian line did just this, settling in northern Louisiana after moving from North Carolina. I wonder if my family played "Molly, Molly Bright," too. I'd like to think that they did.

We're off to spend another weekend working on The House at Sugar Creek, but there's one more wonderful post that I must make before we leave. And trust me, it's going to be a good one.

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