TELLING IT LIKE IT WAS
By Ireland Everett Layne
Submitted by Lynn Bennett.
Some people do not like to trace their family tree or tell the stories of their ancestors as it really was, because they might find a rotten limb on the tree or a skeleton in the closet. I will write this history as best as I can remember from the stories my Grandfather (Roland T. Goff) told.
The earliest stories that I can recall about the Goff side of our family began with Edward Goff along about 1825. He migrated with his family from Virginia and settled in Pike County, Kentucky. All their belongings were loaded into a wagon, pulled by a yoke of oxen. The family trudged along on foot, leading the milk cow. They had to cross several mountains, and as there were no roads, they probably did a lot of rambling around, dodging cliffs, steep hills, and rough spots. They settled either in the head of Raccoon Creek or on John's Creek. I never did learn the exact location. Times were real hard back then, as Eastern Kentucky was virtually a wilderness. Of course there was plenty of wild game to eat, and the settlers raised whatever foodstuff they could on the side of the mountains. The clothes were usually homemade from wool, flax, and cotton that was generally home grown. Hides of animals were tanned and dried to be used in making shoes or moccasins for the children, shoelaces for grown ups and even hinges for doors and windows. Some times a trader would come through the country selling bolts of calico and gingham cloth. The settlers were lucky to get store bought cloth.
Sometime back in the 1800's there was a man by the name of Dick Parsons who was married to a woman by the name of Campbell. They lived in the same vicinity of Pike County as Edward Goff did. They raised a large family and one of their girlsí was named Nancy. She married George Washington Goff who was the son of Edward. The Goffís and Parson's were of strong English decent.
George W. and Nancy Goff had several children, as big families were a custom and a necessity back then. Large families were necessary to help on the mountain farms. The name of one of their sons was John W. Goff. He stands out vividly in my mind as I remember him as being the operator of a gristmill powered by water. He was known as Miller John (A gristmill is composed of several parts, but the outstanding features were the two huge granite rocks that were shaped like a wheel and they ground corn into meal.). He was my Great Grandfather and spoke with a coarse mountain brogue.
Along about the time that Edward Goff and Dick Parsons were around, there was another man named McGlothen who married a woman by the name of Whitehead. One of their daughters was named Cynthia. As time rolled along Cynthia McGlothen married a fellow by the name of Robert Ball. Of course they raised a large family, but I remember one of their daughters well, as she was my Great Grandmother. Her name was Jane Ball and she married John W. Goff. To us she was called Granny.
John and Jane Goff settled in a log house at the mouth of Possum Fork of Raccoon Creek. John was a tall man of about six feet with long arms and big hands. He was a weather-beaten man due to hard living and hard work. All of his work was on a mountain farm and ranged in all types from plowing the rocky ground with a mule and single-shovel plow stock to operating his gristmill. I remember Grandpap as being white-headed with a large white moustache. He generally wore bibbed overalls and a chore coat. (They were called pea jackets back then.).
Jane was a short plump woman with small hands. She always wore her hair combed back and twisted into a sort of a bun behind. I never remember seeing her without her apron on. When she went out of the house, she always wore a homemade bonnet. She seemed to always be busy doing something. I used to watch her card wool and knit. Carding wool is done by using two small boards with small steel wires or teeth sticking out of them. Each board had a straight handle fastened to them, and wool was placed between the boards, and pulled back and forth, rolling the wool into a string. The string was then rolled in the shape of a ball. This was called yarn.
John and Jane were hard workers and had no formal education, except through the school of hard knocks. John learned to read and write a little, and to count. They raised practically everything they ate, as well as corn to feed the stock (hogs, cattle, mules, chickens etc). Grandpap was a honey beekeeper with several log gums of bees on the place. I have watched him rob some honey from the gums, using some rags rolled tight and set on fire. The flame was blown out and then the rags smoked, so the smoke was blown into the gum to quieten the bees. I have watched him shear the wool from his sheep with a pair of hand shears. This was no easy task. Eventually they built a frame house near the spot where the old log house stood. It was a two-story structure with a front porch both downstairs and upstairs. A rock chimney stood at each end of the house. Small logs were burned in the fireplaces. The kitchen was built off to the back of the house. This is the place I liked best, as Granny always had plenty of milk and bread on the table.
They raised a large family consisting of four boys and four girls. I believe their names are listed according to their births: Roland T, Nanny, George W, Niza, Columbus, Cora, Rudolph, and Minnie.
Grandpap did most of the grinding of corn during the winter and spring months as it took quite a bit of water to grind a turn of corn. He would put the boards up on the dam and catch a large body of water. It was about eight feet deep at the dam and ran upstream about three hundred feet. It seemed that about all the boys and girls in the whole neighborhood were related to Grandpap. There wasn't much water in the creek during the summer, and it was always a joy when he would agree to let us boys put up the boards on Saturday Eve. This way we could catch enough water overnight to swim in the next day. I learned to swim in that old millpond.
Here is a quick rundown on who these children of John and Jane married. Roland married Maggie Justice, Nanny married Epp Charles, George W married Minnie Layne, Niza married Green Collins, Columbus married Mel (?), Cora married Cleve West, Rudolph married Sylvania (?), and Minnie married Will Phillips.
Now getting to my Grandmothers side of the family on my Mother's side. Abner Justice married Martha Thacker and they lived in a seemingly more prosperous area of Pike County, Kentucky, that being along the left fork of the river which is an area that was known as Fishtrap, KY. One of Abner and Marthaís sons was named Jerry Mathew Justice. He was always called Matt. He married a woman by the name of Holly Stanley and they lived along side the river and raised a large family consisting of five girls and one boy. Their names were Martha, Sarah, Maggie, Catherine, Nancy and Joe. I don't remember the names of all the ones these married except Maggie was my Grandmother, Catherine married David Blackburn, Nancy Jane married Miles Goff, and Joe married Halley.
Maggie was born September 10, 1878 and she married Roland T. Goff. They settled in a log house on Raccoon Creek between Possum Fork and Rainey Fork. They had four children and the first child, a boy, died before he was one year old. Bertha Edna (my mother) was born July 7, 1898, Orrison McKinley was born November 11, 1900 and John Sanborn was born March 21, 1903.
Later on, Pa bought a mountain farm of about eighty acres that was located about five miles up Coon Creek from where the state road went from Pikeville, Kentucky to Williamson, W. Va. This farm had a framed four-room house on it, but Pa was never satisfied with it, as it was all hillside except maybe two acres. Pa and Ma both worked hard and were good managers. They raked and scraped and saved all they could, and didnít waste anything. Pa was a great hand to set out fruit trees, so naturally he had an apple orchard. They canned apples in fruit jars, dried apples over a kiln, and made apple butter. Of course there were other fruit trees on the place, such as a cherry tree, several peach trees and some pear trees. They made use of all the fruit. When apples were ripe, they would peel a couple of bushels at night by kerosene lamplight, then they would work them up the next day. Pa was intelligent and he had about fifth grade education at three or four months per school term. Women in those days rarely attended school as it was considered useless as a woman's place was in the home. So naturally Ma could neither read nor write. Pa taught her to read, write and count. He used a blue-backed speller as a textbook. Ma would practice writing or printing the words from the speller, and soon she could read her bible and the mail order catalog. Ma was an intelligent woman and had great pride in her manners, cleanliness and character. She always had a smile for every one and never downed people. They seemed to prosper right along, and they vowed they would send their children to school and educate them. This they did. Bertha completed eighth grade, took six weeks of high school, took a Normal Course Examination and received her certificate to teach school. She taught school for three years on Brushy Fork of John's Creek. Orrison completed high school at Pikeville, and went to the University Of Kentucky at Lexington, where he graduated with a Law degree. He was admitted to the Bar in Kentucky, and set up his practice in Pikeville. John completed high school in Pikeville, and was an outstanding basketball player. After high school, he went into business with Garfield Blackburn, selling White Sewing Machines.
It was along about 1922 when Mama began teaching school in a one-room school house on Brushy Greek. This was after my Papa died so Mama found herself to be a young widow with four children to raise and with no income or know-how to earn a living. This is the reason she decided to go back to school and learn to be a teacher. It was rough going back in those days, as she had to board away from home and the teacherís salary was mighty poor. I was only about three years old when this was going on, but I can remember a little of one trip we made to bring her home one weekend. The roads were barely passable due to mud holes and large rocks. Often the road went into the creek for a ways. John was driving a two-seated "T" model Ford, called a touring sedan. I rode in the back seat beside Ma, as she was holding Erma. I think I cried the whole trip, as that was the roughest ride I ever had.
Mama became acquainted with a widower named James M. Bevins. He ran a small country grocery store, and had been left with a large family to raise when his wife died. I believe there were seven children along with his mother. He was a great hand with horses, and usually had good horseflesh on his farm. We used to kid him about when he and Mama were courting. We accused him of putting black shoe polish on his riding horseís hoofs, and when Mama would go by in a "T" Model; he would jump astride his horse and ride beside the car for miles while talking to Mama. I remember well when they mere married, as it took place in the parlor of País house at Pikeville. Ma, Erma and I were there, and of course we didnít know what was going on, but Erma and I held on to Mamaís dress. After the ceremony they left in a one seated buggy pulled by one horse.
Mama and Mr. Bevins had four children: James Jr., Grace Irene, Vernon Ray and Ruby Janette. Mr. Bevins was a fine, moral, upstanding man and was a staunch democrat. He dabbled in politics a little, and he was better to us children than any other man could have possibly been.
Pa and Ma lived on the farm for a while, and they seemed to prosper pretty well; but Pa had his eye on a farm located about one mile further up Coon Creek. It consisted of about one hundred and sixty acres of which about fifteen were level. Level land in that area was hard to get. Pa finally talked the man into selling him the farm for $1600.00. So Pa sold the place he was living in to his younger brother Rudolph. They moved to the new farm, where there was a good two-story frame house with three huge rooms downstairs and three upstairs. There was a large front porch and an L-shaped back porch. The smokehouse was located to the rear of the house, and a fine hand-dug well was to the right of the house. The place had a log barn located about five hundred feet from the house, but Pa built a good big barn with a bay loft and a hallway in it. It was one of the better farms in Pike County.
There was no roadway up Coon Creek, so Pa set his fence back from the creek about thirty feet in front of his farm and gave the right-of-way to the County for a road. I remember the wagons and occasionally a Model-T Ford coming up the creek, as they had to use the creek bed for a road and then when reaching País farm they had a dirt road to travel on. He also gave the County Board of Education about one acre of level land to build a one-room schoolhouse on. Pa, Ma and the kids worked hard as long as daylight lasted and they prospered. They built a large store near the road in front of the house and sold everything that country people would need back then; from hair pins to horse collars and kerosene (lamp oil). Also Pa bid for the Post Office and was Postmaster of the Raccoon, Kentucky post office. It was located in the front corner of the store.
Now we will look at the Layne side of the family. I am not too familiar with this side of the family, but I will try to piece together the connections as best I can. Back in the early 1800's a Cherokee Indian came into Pike County, and wound up in the head of John's Creek along about Hurricane Branch. His last name was Layne and he was a roving preacher (stump preacher). He married and settled down and raised a family. I do not know his wife's name. This Indian was my Great-Great-Grandfather. His son Meredith married a woman by the name of Phillips. Meredith's son Jeff married Lucinda Cooper. Lucinda was the daughter of Arch Cooper. I can't trace any further back on the Cooper's. Jeff and Lucinda settled on Hurricane Branch of John's Creek. They raised a large family, and I will name as many as I can: Robert, Ballard, Leonard, Frank, Minnie, Dora, Hattie, and Clay (Clay died young).
Leonard was my Dad. He was born January 21, l888. He attended the country one-room school and was educated enough to teach at a subscription school. This he did for a few terms. During that time, he boarded with Ma and PA for $5.00 a month. I don't know how he met my mother, but when they married she was fifteen years old and he was twenty-five. They built a wood frame house near the mouth of Fifty-Eight Branch of Raccoon Creek. It was on a part of Pa Goff's farm. My dad worked on the farm with my Grandpa and John and Orrison. He also was a clerk in the store, and usually he had to manage the store, order supplies to be delivered by wagon, keep the records, etc. Pa Goff did not like to work in the store, as he kept lots of field hands working for him. Labor was cheap and the hours were long in those days. Pa used the hands to clear land, log timber, plow crops and hoe corn.
Pa hired a fella by the name of Coleman to help Dad in the store. This man was quite an odd-ball as he had two pistols, and sometimes would go out back of the store near the side of the hill and practice fast draw and firing from the hip. My dad was afraid of the man, and had commented several times to my granddad. So Pa began noticing his actions and became suspicious himself. Dad began to notice money missing from the till. So he marked a five-dollar bill and put it in the till. It came up missing and Coleman had it in his pocket. Dad fired him from the store. Later on as Dad was cutting (cradling) oats on the side of the hill, Coleman hid in the bushes and waited. It was hot on July 28, 1921. Dad sat down to rest a few minutes in the shade and as he resumed his work, the man slipped out of the bushes and shot dad in the back. Dad ran and jumped over a cliff into a hole of water, made it to the other side and climbed up into the road. Coleman was right behind him and caught him in the road. Coleman held dad and shot him down through the top of the head. Dad died. Pa was in the store and heard the shooting, so he grabbed a double barrel shotgun and fired twice at Coleman, striking him in the legs. Coleman then turned his own gun and shot himself in the chest. He died.
Coleman was buried the next day, and I've been told that a big thunderstorm came up and lightning struck into the grave. My Dad was buried the second day in the cemetery upon the side of a mountain across the creek from Rainey Fork. I was told it was a beautiful, warm day. The reason for burying so soon back then was because the dead were not embalmed usually. There were no decent roads to get to an undertaker. Almost all the dead were buried in homemade coffins. There were no concrete vaults, instead the grave was dug wide and long, and then a three foot depth was reached on the lowest corner the grave was narrowed by about six inches all the way around and dug about another three feet. The narrow three feet was called a vault. Inside, the dirt vault was placed a pine box made to fit. Then the coffin was placed inside the pine box. Two layers of rough boards were laid over the box so that they rested on the dirt vault. Then the grave was filled.
I was two years old when Papa was killed, so I can't remember him. Erma had not been born yet. She was born three months later. I've been told that Papa was a short-built man, about five feet seven. He had black straight hair and a ruddy complexion. He had many talents; such as being a blacksmith., carpenter, good handwriting, singer, etc. Dad loved to hunt and trap animals. He used to tan groundhog hides and make shoelaces and hunting bags from them. He once made a five-string banjo and used a groundhog hide for a head on it. Then he learned to pick the banjo, and mother said that he would sit and play for hours for her. He was fond of chewing tobacco, but would not drink whiskey. He was a gentle, easygoing man with no bad habits. He was also a staunch democrat in his political beliefs. All of the Goff's were republican.
When Mama was eight years old, Pa bought her an organ. It had two pedals which worked a bellows, which in turn supplied the air to the pipes. Mama learned to play it from a self-taught book, and she and Dad would spend many enjoyable hours with the organ and banjo.
Leonard and Bertha had five children. Bruce Bernard was born February 23, 1914, Golda Mae was born February 17, 1916, Roland was born June, 1918 but died when he was three months old. Arland (Ireland) Everett was born June 22, 1919 and Erma Marie was born September 21, 1921.
Papa used to make hand made tools in the blacksmith shop. I have two hammers and a pair of pot hooks made by him. Papa had a big black mule named Jim that he used to ride every time he went any distance. Pikeville is the county seat of Pike County, and practically all business was transacted there. If you followed the creek and went out to the main road, it was eleven miles to town. If you crossed the mountain into the head of Frozen Creek and then crossed another mountain into Chole Creek, then down Chole Creek to Pikeville, it was only seven miles. You had to be careful or you would take a wrong path and get lost. Papa and Pa Goff would generally ride across the mountains when they had business in town.
After Papa died, Pa and Ma Goff took my mother and children into their big house. Orrison and John was boarding at Pikeville and going to school. Bruce and Goldia were of school age, so Pa vowed that he was going to give us four children a high school education. Pa had prospered and owned some rental houses at Pikeville. He built a large two-story house on Ferguson Creek, across the river from town. We had been living in a large concrete block house, two stories with a sorta basement beneath. This house had electric lights and running water. We had sure come up in the world.
I was real small when all this was taking place. I remember that Ma took in boarders (mostly high school pupils) to help pay the rent. In the meantime Pa set about building a large house close by on the side of a hill. He hired a man by the name of Bill Conway to help him on the house. It was finally completed at a cost of $2800. Pa had a water well hand dug away back on the mountain. It was walled with field rocks and he ran a pipe from it to the house. There was no pump as he used the siphon system. There was enough force from the water going down hill to pull water up from the well. So there was cold water in the kitchen sink. Hot water had to be heated on the stove.
Along about this time John married Ida Damron. They lived in the house also, and Jack was born in this house. John was a salesman (drummer) for the White Sewing Machine Co. A little later on he sold out his portion of the company, and moved to the farm at the head of Coon Creek. When I became six years old I started to school in the Pikeville Public School. It began in September and ended the last of May. When school was out I was sent to Coon Creek to help on the farm. This continued until I was about fourteen years old. Bruce was generally sent to Coon Creek too, but I Believe Golda went to stay with Mama during the summer. Erma stayed with Ma.
Pa was quite a crackerjack during his young days. He had done some of about everything that a young man could. I remember some of the things, so I'll relate them as best I can. When Pa was a youngster, he knew a man by the name of Will Smith. Smith went to Arizona and bought a cattle ranch. He seemed to prosper right along. When Pa and Ma married, Smith wanted them to come to Arizona, and he would help them get set up in a cattle ranch. Pa was raring to go, and Ma would have gone along, but País Daddy (Miller John) insisted that he not go, so Pa gave up the idea. He seemed to regret it the rest of his life.
Back in the early days snakes and animals were rather plentiful. Pa told me that one time another man opened a country store close to his store. So in order to draw trade, Pa started buying live rattlesnakes. Be would put the snakes in boxes covered with wire and place them on the counter of the store. People would come in to see the snakes and then trade some. The store was heated in the winter by a big pot-bellied wood stove. At night there was no fire kept in the stove, so to keep the snakes from freezing he would carry them to the house and put them under the bed. Ma said that was a terrible feeling, just knowing the snakes were under there.
Another time Pa told me of an experience he had that most people wouldn't dare try. He was walking across a mountain one day, when he ran upon a big black timber rattlesnake. Now Pa had been hitting the moonshine pretty hard that day, and he always regarded himself as being very quick in action. So he decided to catch the snake. He cut a long slim switch and began playing with the snake, in order to wear it down. That was the toughest snake he had ever fooled with, and he had mashed all the weeds down in a big circle while dodging the snake. Finally he got the snake tired, and he started moving one hand in a circular motion to get its attention. As the snake moved his head in a circular movement watching the hand, Pa quickly reached out with his other hand and grabbed the snake behind the head. He carried it to the store and put it in a cage. He said he almost made a pet out of it, but I didn't believe the last part.
Back then there were not any roads that could hardly be traveled, and rates for shipping on the railroad were high. During the wintertime, landowners along the river would hire men to cut timber and skid them down to the river's edge. There the logs would be lashed together to form a raft. A large sweep (paddle) was mounted on the rear of the raft to guide it with as it floated. Large ropes were fastened front and rear and coiled up in a neat pile, much like sailors coiled ropes. These were used to tie the raft to trees along the bank of the river in case the men wanted to stop during their trip downstream. A small hut was usually built near the center of the raft to protect the men from rain and cold weather. A couple of old wash tubs were placed on board to keep a fire in. Also the food was cooked over the fire in the tubs. A raft was generally about thirty feet wide and sixty to eighty feet long. There were lots of short turns in the river, so rafts couldn't be too long. Pa tells of a time when he was working a raft. The river had been at flood stage during the spring thaw. They waited until the water began to recede, then they started their raft down stream. They had to wait until a flood in order to miss the large rocks and shoals. As they were floating along on their way to Cattletsburg, Kentucky to sell the timber, the sweep broke and the sweep men could not guide the raft through the turns. They saw the raft was going to crash into some trees so they grabbed a two-man crosscut saw and he and his partner stood ready to cut the trees out of the way in case the raft hung up. Pa was standing near the edge and when the raft hit, he fell into the river. The water was swift and when he came up, he was about thirty feet from the raft. He also had the saw in one hand. He was hauled aboard by a rope and discovered the saw had cut his thigh near his knee to the bone. Of course some moonshine whiskey was poured on the wound, and a slug inside him so it didn't bother much.
There was another experience he related to me pertaining to his rafting journeys. The raft had arrived in Cattletsburg. The owner had sold the timber and paid the menís wages. They were to ride a train back home the next day, so they thought they would loaf around town a little. There was one man on their crew that was big and tough, and as strong as a bull. As they were rambling around town they come upon a tent, where a man had a big black bear. The bear was in a large cage and was muzzled. The man wanted to bet a hundred dollars that there was no man in town that could whip his bear, either by wrestling or boxing. The raft crew got together the hundred dollars required to cover the bet. Then they enticed the strong man to try his luck at fighting the bear. After a few shots of moonshine the man agreed to try, so the door was unlocked and the chain around the bears neck was removed, but the muzzle stayed on. Out came the bear and immediately stood on his hind legs and struck the man on the side of his head with his paw. The man threw his hat on the ground and landed a solid right fist to the bearís head. The bear fell over dead. The man was furious and demanded payment for the bear, but he didn't get it. So he lost his bear plus a hundred dollars.
Ma told of the time when they were newly married. They lived in a log house and the mattress on the bed was made from corn shucks. In the winter a feather bed was placed over the mattress for warmth. One particular time, she felt a lump on her side of the bed, like a stick under the mattress. They got up, removed the mattress, and there was a big copperhead snake.
Ma told of the time when she was a little girl; her dad had gone to Pikeville to serve on the jury. Jury duty generally called for a man to be away from home for about six weeks, as he had to board in town. One trip while he was away in the winter time, Maís mother was preparing to wash clothes. The river was frozen over, and water had to be carried from the river and heated in a large wash pot outside the house. Her mother went to the river with a hatchet in her hand to chop a hole in the ice. She heard a noise and looked out on the frozen river, where a deer had slipped on the ice and couldn't get up. She called for Ma to bring a pole ax (an ax that has a blade on one side and a sort of hammer on the other). When she got the ax she hit the deer in the head and then cut it's throat. When Maís dad returned home there was fresh deer meat hanging in the smoke house.
Pa was well thought of among the businessmen around Pikeville, so he joined the Masonic Lodge. Travel in those days was done mostly on horseback. On meeting nights he would saddle his horse and ride through the mountains from Coon Creek to Pikeville, a distance of about seven miles. He would put his horse in a livery stable and after the meeting, ride the same distance back home at night. He never held any offices in the Lodge, but was a faithful member until he died. He received a fifty-year pin and paid-up dues card about five years before his death. He also belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and served through the different offices twice.
Pa was determined to learn to survey and become a Civil Engineer. The County Judge 0. A. Stump was a civil engineer and he taught Pa at night how to survey. Pa bought an instrument made by Gurley and he began surveying farms, roads, coal mines, etc. I have the instrument now. Pa was good with figures and he studied hard, and soon took the examination to become a mining engineer. He received second class papers and worked for years in the coalmines. As a small boy I used to drag chain (pulling the steel tape to measure footage) for him. He would let me look through the transit at different objects which was always a thrill to do. I remember one time he was surveying a tram road for a coal mine not too far from home. I was small but I carried his lunch to him in a small bucket. Generally when I got there I ate most of it as the hill climbing made me hungry.
I started to school in the Pikeville City School in September 1925. That was some experience. Bruce led me by the hand all the way so I wouldn't get lost. My name was pinned to the bib of my overalls. Ma Goff had written my name on the piece of paper and as she wasn't very good at handwriting it wasn't readable. Pa had always insisted that Erma and I would take the last name of Goff. I imagine that he thought that, as he had raised us from infancy that we should assume his last name. I told the teacher my name was Arland Goff. She entered it in the register as Ireland Goff. So that is how my name got spelled wrong.
I got out of school early that first day, and as I had no one to show me the way home, I started out on my own. After rambling around awhile I finally found the bridge, so I knew where I was. The bridge had three spans in it, and a wooden floor. Teams and wagons were the most traffic that crossed the bridge. It was really dangerous, as there were holes worn through in some places that even a child could fall through. I was lucky not to fall, and crossed that bridge thousands of times. I didn't have any trouble finding my way to and from school and made passing grades each year. I went to school in Pikeville until I was fifteen years old.
Ma died when I was fifteen, and then I had no place to stay to go to school. Pa Made arrangements with a woman to move into our house, and he wouldnít charge her any rent if she would board me so I could go to school. The agreement was made so I enrolled for the second semester of my sophomore year. This woman had a large family, and as a widow she had no income. She received relief food from the government, which didn't include any meat. I ate gravy and corn bread for three meals a day until I couldn't stand it any longer. So after six weeks or so, I went to live with Mama. She said I looked like I was about starved, and she wasn't far wrong. We put in a big crop of corn at Mamaís that year, and raised about everything we ate. Times were really hard as it was during the Great Depression. We raised chickens, hogs, and had a couple of scrub milk cows. Also we had a few hives of bees for honey.
The summer rocked along and everyone at home worked hard trying to raise something to eat. There was no money for anything, and some times I would get a dayís work for a neighbor either plowing or hoeing corn or cutting timber. I was paid from fifty to seventy five cents a day. When I worked out, and made a little money, it went for work clothes.
F. D. Roosevelt was President then and he established a program for young men to work in forestry called the C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps). The age limits were eighteen to twenty six. I was sixteen, so in October 1935, I lied about my age and joined. I was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for my physical examination. I passed, and after being given an armload of shots I was sent to White Sulfur Springs, Montana. We got to Montana about the middle of October, and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. It was so cold that I thought I would freeze to death. Our camp was eighteen miles from town, and we had to ride in big trucks with a canvas over the back. It took us over two hours to make the trip, as a snowplow had to lead the way. When we finally got to camp, that was the most desolate looking place that can be imagined. There were four barracks, a mess hall and a shower building. Ice and snow were everywhere, even in the shower building. The camp was located on the side of a hill. The buildings were built of wood with tarpaper.
I had enlisted in the CCC for six months, and if one wanted to stay longer, he had to reenlist every six months. I stayed one hitch, and went back to live with Mama and Mr. Bevins. I was discharged in April so I helped grub stumps and briers, and put in a big crop of corn that summer. I plowed that old hillside back of where Ray lives now, all the way from the lower fence to nearly the top of the mountain. Also all the level patches around the house, plus renting the Vicy Lloyd bottom and working it. I don't think we ever raised 100 bushels of corn, as the land was worn out from use and we didn't have any fertilizer to put on it.
In September, when school started I went back to school. That was the first year for buses. I went to Johnís Creek High School, and the bus was a Diamond T Model and seated about thirty students. We usually crowded about fifty on it. That year I was elected president of the Junior Class and President of the 4H Club. Also I was on the basketball team. Time rocked along and I was elected President of the Senior Class. I graduated in May 1938.
After I graduated, I couldn't get a job, as there were none to be had around home. I helped farm the rest of that year, and in October I tried to join the U. S. Army. I wanted in the Infantry so Raymond Sparks and I joined together. We were sent to Ft. Thomas, Kentucky for our physical. I was turned down because of flat feet. Back home I came to a life of drudgery on the place. Goldie had married Sheridan C. Carnes and lived in Warren, Ohio. She had two daughters, Shirley and Glenda. Erma and I went to live with them for awhile so maybe I could find a job there. I couldn't get a job there permenant, so I just took day's work where ever I could find it. I dug ditches and bailed out septic tanks with a bucket. Good thing it was winter as the cold weather killed some of the scent. I wound up back at Mamaís the next summer and helped around there until December. There was talk of a war and of imposing a draft of young men. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on the 20th December 1940. In order to get in the Air Corps one had to have two years of college or pass a written test. I took the test and passed.
I was sent to Ft. Thomas, Kentucky for processing and physical. I passed everything and was sent the next day to Maxwell Field, Alabama for basic training. There were gobs of young men at Maxwell and more arriving every day. I was assigned to a squadron located in Tent City #1. Six men lived in each tent and they were from all over the south and Ohio. Everything was strange to me, but I was determined to make a go of it, as I would at least be paid 21 dollars a month and everything necessary was furnished. We could not leave the dirt street in front of the tent, unless we were in formation and marched. We marched to the mess hall, mail call, theaters, Exchange store, etc. All day long we marched on the parade field. I was soon made an acting NCO, so I had a squad of sixteen to train to march.
After two months at Maxwell, about 200 of us were loaded onto trucks and moved to a new base (Craig AFB) that was under construction about fifty miles away at Selma, Ala. There we lived in new barracks and didn't have to march anywhere. We were the only soldiers on the base, so everything wasn't too bad. People from town would come out and invite us to their home for supper, then maybe take us to a movie or some sort of entertainment, and when we were ready, they would take us back to the base. They were nice people and they knew we were lonesome boys away from home.
Looking back on it now, I really enjoyed the time I spent at Craig Air Force Base, we pulled cotton stalks on the field where the air field is now. We cut trees and grubbed stumps along a creek between the barracks and airfield. I understand there is a beautiful lake since they completed the dam that was started when I was there. We dug up big cedar trees and crepe myrtle bushes and moved them to various places on the base. The squadron I was with was destined for the Philippines, and our Sergeant-in-Charge had been stationed in the Philippines and Panama Canal Zone both. Each morning we ware required to take exercise, so he would march us out of sight of the brass, and we'd all sit down and listen to the tales he told about those places. We all felt like we had already been to Panama when we got there.
We shipped out in April 1940 aboard a train for Charleston, SC. We had to cross Georgia enroute, and I remember seeing nothing of the state of Georgia, except swamps filled with water and full of trees with the trunks swelled. It really looked desolate where we crossed. We arrived at Charleston and boarded buses for the trip across the long curved bridge to Ft. Moultrie, where we were to be readied to go overseas. We stayed there about a week I guess taking physicals, getting shots, and briefing for our trip. Finally we were boarded onto a troop transport ship. Itís name was Chateau Thierry, and gosh what a crummy vessel. It had been used during the First World War to transport mules and horses to France. My bed was a hammock, supported by four chains and was almost floor-level. There were three hammocks above mine, and when the guy that slept above me crawled into his sack, it bagged down until I hardly had room to move my arms. There was about two feet of space between the rows of hammocks, so you almost breathed into each otherís face. We were in the second hold down, which put us about sea level,, and there were no fans or air conditioning and very little ventilation. We lolled around on deck as much as we could; even sleeping on the hard steel surface. There were seven cars chained down on deck, and we sat all over them. These cars belonged to officers that were shipping overseas. There were about 400 Glís on board that trip.