by Lucille Chandler Snyder

So much has changed in the last 85 years but, I will try to give you an idea of what life was like on the farm of the Chandler family.

I was born in 1915 in Nassawadox, Virginia, the second child of Grover and Luceal Chandler. We lived across the road from Daddy’s mother, who ran a boarding house. Gladys, my older sister and Grover C, my younger brother, were also born there.

Mama sold Larkin products and with the premiums, she bought furniture for the house. Daddy was a carpenter with Dave Dutton, worked in grist mill with Bill Tilman, before farming for Len Whited on farm outside of Nassawadox.

There was an epidemic of flu during World War One and the Shore was hard hit. Mama, Grover C and I developed pneumonia from the flu and all very ill. Grover C was 1 ½ y.o. , a big healthy baby before the pneumonia. When Dr. Sturgis visited on Saturday afternoon, he said he had done all he could and didn’t expect Grover C to live through the night. Aunt Mary Ward was staying with us. Rosa Ward, her sister-in-law, came to visit. Rosa helped with the sick as she had more knowledge about illness. Rosa sent Uncle Lewis and Willis to get Dr. Allen Arnold to open up the drug store on Saturday night to get Flax Seed Meal. It was their last hope that he would survive. They made a poultice of Flax Seed Meal and onion and put it on his chest. The next morning he was so much better. Dr. Sturgis couldn’t believe it when he saw him.

Vernon was born on Len Whited’s farm the 14th of June 1921. He picked up the nickname of Bubby early on and that’s still with him, to this day.

The elementary school was in Franktown, two miles from where we lived. Gladys had to walk and when the weather was bad, she could not go. She missed so many days, she had to repeat the first grade.

Gladys and Lucille lived with Dottie and Uncle Willie from August until the rest of the family moved to Painter in November. They did not want to change school so, on Friday afternoon, they took the train to Nassawadox and came back to Painter on Sunday with Dottie and Uncle Willie. Farmers could only move after harvesting was done in the fall and before planting started in the spring.

Gladys, Grover C, Bubby & I all had the whooping cough in November 1921. I brought it home when Bubby was six months old and he was very ill. Bubby coughed all night and next AM he was hardly alive. Mama threw him in the air to catch his breath while Daddy ran to Painter to get Dr. Cosby. Dr. Cosby gave him double dose of whooping cough serum to see if it would save his life. The doctor said if he lived he would have Saint Vitus dance (a nervous disease with involuntary, jerking motions). He also advised them to keep him out of crowds, to keep his nerves calm.

In 1923, we moved across the tracks where Glenna was born in 1924. Virginia Route 13 runs beside the railroad track.

Daddy rented the land from Billy Turner, but farmed for himself. Daddy said the last year he made money, was the year Glenna was born. He bought his first car, a model T, that same year. It was a four seater and had curtains to put up when it rained or was cold.

We all went to Painter grammar school for seven years. We walked through the farm next door and woods to get to school. We rode the bus to Central High School, you graduated in eleven years back then.

We always lived in a cold house, no insulation or storm windows. Only rooms heated were the kitchen and living room. A coal stove heated the living room. It was cut back so low at night , we were dressed before the fresh coal started to burn in the AM. It was still the warmest room in the house so we undressed and dressed there. All floors were linoleum and were they cold! Mama made rag throw rugs to go on the floors. She was always doing something with her hands. She was a night owl, never wanted to go to bed or get up.

The wood stove in the kitchen was for heat as well as cooking. There was a tank on the side of the stove for water so you always had hot water. We had a coal stove in the dining room where we sat. The parlor, known as living room, was kept for Sundays and Holidays.

We used an Aladdin lamp for the sitting room, it had a mantle and gave out a bright, white light. In the kitchen was a nickel oil lamp, it had a yellow light. We burned a glass lamp in small hall between the three bedrooms.

Mama made all of our clothes and Daddy put soles on our shoes. Every farmer had a last and half soled shoes, even rubber heels. You could buy leather and cut soles from a block of leather.

Daddy always planted a good summer and winter garden so, we ate well. You could not buy chicken in the stores so, you raised your own. You tried to have fried chicken, butter beans and tomatoes by the 4th of July. Raising your own chickens, you made the old roosters into chicken salad and baking hens cooked with dropped dumplings. We never ate horse corn, only sweet table corn and there is a big difference between the two! We had sliced tomatoes in vinegar and pepper, never mayonnaise. Mama made her own cooked dressing for potato salad. She always made a turkey roaster of rice and raisins. Cakes were for weekends only along with a large canner kettle of vegetable soup. The stores gave you beef bones and suet for the soup. Mama canned the vegetables for the soup mixture, corn, butter beans and tomatoes in ½ gal. jars, using a large copper kettle to can the vegetables and preserving with the cold water bath method. Mama made yeast bread every Friday night for 45 years and never had a failure; she used one yeast cake with two sifters of flour. They would be ready to make into rolls and loaves the first thing Saturday morning and baked for Saturday lunch. The rolls were generally gone by Sunday night and loaves used for school lunches.

Daddy would sometimes grow lettuce in potato beds with hot frames to put on ham sandwiches for school lunches. There were no school lunches until Glenna was in high school. The schools had a hand pump for water and everyone drank from the same tin cup.

We had a Pender’s store in Painter. Sometimes Mama would send me on Monday mornings to get left over bread for 5 cents a loaf. It was 10 cents when fresh. Fat meat was 2 lbs for 25 cents, coffee, 25 cents a lb., oysters 25 cents a quart, spool of cotton was 5 cents and now $1.75. Ice cream, all you could get on a cone for 5 cents. It was always 5 cents for tablet and 1 cent for pencil.

There was plenty of milk as we owned a cow. We always had milk, butter and fresh eggs from the farm and they were good. The yolk of the egg was deep orange from the yellow corn the chickens ate. We always drank root beer instead of ice tea, Daddy said ice tea made him weak. We drank lots of root beer, made by taking a pitcher of water, adding sugar and Hire’s concentrate then cooling it with a large chunk of ice. We never had ice in our glass as it used too much ice.

There were lots of flies in the summer, even with screens. A sticky tape hung from the ceiling to attract them. With so many children coming in and out and buckets of food scrapes for the pigs on the back porch, it was hard to keep them out.

There were plenty of clean cloths to cover the dishes, sugar and flour came in cloth bags. Mama bought flour in 25 lb bags and poured it into an empty lard tin. Later, chicken mash came in cloth bags and by the ‘40s, they were print bags, which were used for dresses. You put the cloth bags in lye water to take out the print stamp, there was no clorox.

Mama made a quilt every winter and would piece it together with various materials. She used flannel lining for warmth. Neighbors would also come in and help her quilt. Her pattern was “Court House Steps”. She later pieced and quilted a “double wedding ring” quilt for all her children.

>After we moved to Painter, Grover C and I would go with Daddy to Stringer’s Mill Pond at Middle Sex, to get the yellow corn ground for chicken feed. Fine ground at first then coarse, as the chickens grew. Real fine ground for corn meal to make spoon bread that you could cut out of the baking dish. Mama scalded the meal. It was Kate Smith’s recipe. She was a singer on the radio in the 40's and greatest song was “ God Bless America”.

There was no television or radio. I guess I was 15 or 16 before we had a radio. The best program was Amos and Andy and Ma Perkins.

Some farm houses had basements or root cellars but, we had neither. Daddy made a large “kill”; that’s what we called it. First was a thick layer of pine shatters on the ground, then bushel baskets of potatoes were stacked on the shatters, more shatters were then put over the baskets and dirt put on top making a mound similiar to a small quonset hut. He stored white potatoes, sweet potatoes for pie and bread. Hyman potatoes, the ones green on the inside, for baking. Sometimes turnips, for a short while. Only on a warm day in winter was the “kill” opened. After taking out what the family could use, it was closed again. We always had a good winter garden, turnip greens that were as bitter as quinine, yellow turnips, cabbabge, parsnips and spinach.

Kellar Fair was the big entertainment of the year. It was held in August near the town of Kellar. Up at 4:30 AM to fry chickens, apples, make biscuits and other foods to take to the fair. Mama also made different types of pickles to be judged at fair.

In the spring of 1928, Daddy broke a bone in his ankle while helping drive a pump and was on crutches. Mr Billy Turner, his landlord, came over to see if Daddy would go riding with him but he didn’t feel like it. We live across the tracks and as he was leaving, he was hit by a train. He was in his big black Hutmobile and was killed instantly. Everyone was thankful Daddy wasn’t with him, as he had five children.

Grandma Crockett was visiting from Tangier Island. When she saw the big black car with the beautiful light grey wool material as upholstery, she asked if she could have it. The train man told her to help herself. That night Grandma, Mama and I took the lantern and went out and cut out all the material we could. Grandma and Mama were busy sewing after that. I got a pretty circular skirt, recieved many comliments on it, Grover C got a pair of knickers and also book bags for all the children; all made from the upholstery.

Mama washed on Monday, the clothes were rubbed on a wash board with home made lye soap like Aunt Gladys made. After the clothes were washed, they were put in a large copper boiler and boiled with lye, this was repeated in clean water and washed again. Then they were put in clear water to rinse in bluing water. You bought a bottle of bluing and added a small amount to the water for whitening clothes. Your starch was homemade and most clothes were ironed, even bed clothing and dish towels. The white clothes were white as they hung on the line. I remember Mama still hanging wash on the line when we got home from school at 3:30 PM Mama was slow and the clothes on the farm were dirty!

Christmas was a lot of fun and lots to eat. You started before Christmas making mince meat for pies. Fruit cakes were made early to ripen, storing in a cool place was no problem. The week before Christmas, we started making other cakes like chocolate, pound with black walnuts, lemon and coconut. Daddy would grate fresh coconut for the cakes. We always had a Minnie Ha Ha cake which is now known as Lady Baltimore. I think Mama substituted preserved figs, citron and walnuts, from the tree in our yard, in her fruit cakes, as they would drop out when you took a bite, (they didn’t have store bought candied fruit back then).

Grover C and I, maybe Bubby, but never Gladys, as she was to busy cleaning, would go out and cut a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve or the day before. The tree was so tall you had to cut the top off to keep it from hitting the ceiling. Santa Claus always trimmed the tree when he brought the gifts. There was no electricity so you had Christmas balls and strung popcorn. I remember Mama and Daddy saying they were going to bed as we were getting up. It’s a good thing we had a front and back stairway. Once Bubby was old enough, he and Glenna were up before 4 AM, going from house to house to see what Santa brought everyone. They got back home by the time it was getting light. We always had a man’s large sock to hang for Santa to fill with apples, oranges, nuts and hard candy. I remember Grover C stayed awake all night one Christmas Eve, he never did hear Santa or the reindeer on the roof................... The tree would stay up until the second week of January.

Daddy’s family always came for Christmas dinner, after his mother died in 1926. We had the most children so always had a big dinner. Mama’s family lived off the shore so they did not come. There was goose or turkey and one half of a large fresh country ham. Ham was boiled on top of the stove until tender. Skin was removed, fat scored and cloves and brown sugar put over the top. This helped to brown the top and give it good flavor, as the ham did not have time to cure. Daddy’s hams had a taste of English walnuts.

Uncle Tom, who we loved dearly, had no children. After eating dinner, he would sit and eat nuts and candy, all afternoon, from one of our stockings. I am sure the rest of us shared when he left. We never hid the stockings as we did not want him to feel bad. Uncle Tom was a little man like Uncle Fitzhugh Watson. He had poor eyesight but, he worked as long as anyone would hire him. There was no Social Security or Welfare so, you worked as long as you could. After Christmas Day, there was always plenty of food left so we didn’t have to cook for several days. Neighbors would visit and there was always plenty of cake and cocoa to serve.

We went thru the great depression in the late 20's but I didn’t realize it since we always had plenty of the necesities and the bills got paid. I came to the conclusion that I was born before a lot of bad things hit the farm families. All fared alike but, I think our family lived a lot better than most of other farm families. We always ate together and there was plenty on the table to eat. Supper was the big meal and that’s when we discussed the happenings of the day. Everyone was poor but, we didn’t know it. Friends from Philadelphia visited and thought we were rich as we had two meats on the table at one time. Mama with her thrifty ways, pulled us thru. If she could have gone to Washington and run this country like she ran our home, this country wouldn’t be paying off a debt!. It was a hard time for some of the farmers as they had trouble paying their taxes and lost their farms. When people couldn’t pay Uncle Willie for medicine, they would give him a calf, hogs or chickens.

No one locked a door in the country as no one stole anything, think one key fit every lock. Grover C was very neat, always looked nice. He even paid Glenna to put shoe polish in the white dots on his saddle shoes. Bubby was happy digging tunnels and making tree houses.

We were raised in a Christian family and never missed church on Sunday. Sunday was a day for church and visiting, no working! We had clothes for church, school and play and we knew better than to wear one when we should have the others on. Mama believed in looking your best when you went out.

Hobo’s used to ride the trains, they jumped off when they were hungry. One Hobo would tell another where to find a good meal. We had our share stop by, they recieved a good meal but, always had to cut wood or kindling for the meal. Mama believed that nothing came free; if you wanted it bad enough, you would work for it.

Hog killing was a big day, always on a Monday morning in early December and always cold and clear. Grover C and I were up before light helping Daddy fill the big black pots with water to scald the hogs. After the fire was built around the pots, we would take the lantern and go into the woods for green pine needles to put in the scalding water. This made it easier to get the hair off the hogs. Other helpers arrived before light and the hogs were killed. Grover C and I always watched, it was part of being raised on a farm. The big hogs were put in large barrels of scalding water and hair was taken off with clam shells, that’s how they got the skin so clean. Hogs were put on a gallow, split open from neck down to stomach. Intestines were taken out and put in a large tub. The women in the house cleaned and took the fat from the intestines, these were called chitterlings. We always gave them away but, that was a big dish for some people. The hogs were left to air out and get cool. The stomach was held opened with a piece of wood. After lunch the hogs were cut up and large tubs of fresh meat were brought to the house. The women continued to cut off fat, all the lean was put in another tub for sausage. The second day, the fat was put into the cleaned large black pot and cooked until the fat was clear. The colored woman scraped the souse pig feet while she stirred the lard, it was cooked slowly for fear of burning. Then the hot fat was poured in 50 lb new lard tins. When it was cool, it was as white as snow.

The women in the house were grinding meat to go into casings, which were the small intestines. They had been turned and scraped and cleaned many times the day before and put in salt water to keep fresh. After the fresh ground meat had been mixed and seasoned with sage, salt & pepper, the meat was stuffed in casings, linked and hung on a stick in a smoke house for breakfast later with hyman potatoes.

Mama always made souse with pig feet, souse cheese, which she cut in blocks and put in vinegar. Scrapple was made of liver, lungs, heart and corn meal. It was cooked and put in square pans to cut up as needed for future use. If you think Rapa Brand is good, try some home made scrapple. Hams and shoulders were salted and sows belly and streak of lean were put on clean shelves in smoke house. After about three months of heavy salt, the black pot was heated with hot water. All meat was taken out of the smoke house, washed and dried and peppered, put in clean bags and put in smoke house for family meat. Mama said she always saved every thing but hair and waste. We even scrambled brains and eggs together, that was a big dish for lunch the first day and the Tenderloin was for supper that night.

My favorite breakfast was country linked sausage and hyman potato, you poured the hot grease over the potato. Christmas morning breakfast was buckwheat hot cakes with strawberry preserves.

The Chandler children took a bath once a week, on Saturday night, in a No. 2 galvanized tub. The tub was brought into the kitchen and placed beside wood cook stove. The tea kettle, that was always boiling on top of the stove, and the hot water reservoir on the side of the stove, was used to heat the bath water. Each child took his/her turn getting in the tub and taking a bath then, clean under clothes, which was changed once a week. After each child was bathed, hot water was added but water never changed. The under clothes were short sleeve and legs just above the knee, white cotton knit. Daddy had long sleeves and legs as he was outside most the winter.

We had a hand pump on the back porch for water. It was cooler than faucet water today. We had an outside toilet with 2 seats. No toilet paper, Sears Roebuck catalogue was used. Dotttie, daddy’s sister at Painter, married a druggist and she was the only one in the family that had a bathroom and toilet paper. They lived over the drugstore before moving down the street. I had my first bathroom in the 40's after World War II. I think we got electricity in 1943. We were bib overall farmers and lived like them!

We did not have a fireplace as daddy boarded them up. When he was a child, they only had a fireplace for heat and he said, that if he every owned a home he would have some other source of heat because, with a fireplace, you would get heat to one side of your body or the other but not both! For those that had chimneys, you cleaned them yourself, there was no service to do it for you. You climbed on the roof with 2 or 3 bricks in a gunney sack. With a long rope tied to the sack, you lowered the bricks up and down the chimney. This cleaned the chimney and what a mess if it fell in the fireplace.

Shickshinney restaurant at Belle Haven Road, was one of the best on the Shore, managed by Gordan Savage. Daddy sold him fresh vegetables and shelled butter beans. He would call at 8 AM on Saturday and want 20 quarts of butter beans by evening. Daddy and I would pick while Mama and Glenna shelled. When we finished picking, we would help shell. No white ones allowed, only the green ones. These sold for 25 cents a quart. We also had a roadside market in the summer.

Dottie Gladden, Daddy’s sister, was very generous with her family. She took me to Pocomoke, MD and bought me a long pink gown with blue sash for Prom night. She also made a sweet pea corsage, they grew on her fence, for Prom night. Dottie was so handy with her hands. We went to Whispering Pines for dinner and dance.

Grover C and Bubby saved steel and iron from old cars and farm machinery for $14.00 a ton to send to Japan in 1936. Old cars were put in the branch near our farm.

Everyone had a septic system as there were no sewer lines in the county and still are none today. Outside the porch near the pump, you dug a hole filling the bottom with oyster shells. A large barrel with the top and bottom out, was put in the hole. The lid was put on top of barrel, then hole filled with dirt to the level of the ground. Drain pipe from sink on porch led into the barrel. There was a large 5 gallon bucket on the back porch that you put your dish water in.This was used to put middling in and fed to the hogs.

You washed dishes in a pan with lye soap, never any suds. You never scalded or rinsed dishes. You dried them with a cloth and stacked them in the center of the table. Everyone had a kitchen cabinet and pantry, very few had china cabinets.

Daddy raised five children and farmed 35 acres of land. He had a colored family living on the farm to help him. He furnished them a house and wood. Labor was 7 ½ cents an hour. They worked 10 hours for 75 cents. Daddy did not have a tractor until the mid 40's and it was hard following the south end of a mule all day. He worked a horse and two mules. The mules were Kit & Kate. One lived long after he had the tractor but he would not sell her as, when they got old, they made glue out of them and since she was like a member of the family, daddy wouldn’t allow it. We were fortunate to have a gentle horse to ride around the farm. Molly was her name and she was red velvet with a white blaze. All the children used to ride her. Gladys rode Molly to sell Larkin products, to buy a trunk and slicker and other things she needed to take to Norfolk Protestant Hospital, where she took her nurses training and recieved her R N. Molly was fat but, anyone could saddle her. She loved green fodder corn and would eat too much and have colic. Daddy would tie a rope around her neck and put the rope over the tree limb, to hold her head up and then give her a large bottle of salts, that would usually fix her up. One summer night we did not hear her and found her dead in the stable the next morning. We all missed her, she was a once in a life time horse.

We moved 1 mile south of Painter in 1932. Lived down the road from the Bennett’s. My two brother’s, Grover C and Vernon, married sisters Jeanette and Virginia Bennett. Then Gladys married their uncle, Ralph Marsh.

Mama had five living children, two miscarriages and three stillbirths. The last baby was born stillborn in 1932, the year I graduated from high school. The only curly haired girl,  had been dead for two weeks. Glenna was the only one that lived out of the last four pregnancies.

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