The frog legs contracted in the pan and appeared to jump

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 29, 2016

Aunt Clarice was an excellent cook. I’m sure she and my mother got their special culinary education in French cuisine from their mother, Maria.

Since my Uncle Augie was a company man and wasn’t on a time clock for the Rolland Glass Plant, he had an hour for lunch at noon. The glass plant was only a few blocks down the street, so he came home for lunch every day. I was frequently invited to join them for lunch, which I often did. My father was a glass cutter at Adamston Glass Plant and was paid for each piece he produced; his time was of the essence. He carried his noon meal to work and took only 1/2 hour for lunch. Hence, we had our big family meal in the evening when my father returned from work.

I have always been at least a few pounds overweight—I presume my weight problem started during these early years, when I ate a big meal at noon at Aunt Clarice’s and another big meal at home in the evening.

Olga Hardman's aunt and uncleClarissa Amelia Caussin (1889-1948) and August Aristide Malfregeot (1885-1950).

At one of these noon meals with Aunt Clarice and Uncle Augie, I had my first encounter with frog legs. The dish in the center of the table was a turkey platter heaped high with frog legs.

As I watched the muscles of the frog legs contract and appear to jump in the pan, I was quite reluctant to try them. However, being aware of just how delicious everything that Aunt Clarice cooked was, I did relent.

I don’t remember that you could buy frog legs in grocery stores in those days, but I do remember our fathers and uncles going out at night to “gig” frogs.

We always had lettuce salad with our big meal and after the lettuce was washed it had to be dried so the dressing would cling to each leaf. There was a small porch off the Malfregeot kitchen door and Aunt Clarice could frequently be seen standing there shaking water drops in the grass below as she swung the wire basket to and fro.

Turtle soup was a monumental French culinary delight. The men in French families often “felt” for snapping turtles in local streams. “Feeling for turtles” simply meant that you waded in the stream as you felt beneath the water for submerged turtles. The only problem was that on occasion one might grab at the wrong end of the turtle and encounter a vicious and sharp beak.

On one such outing, Uncle Augie raised his hand from the stream, a huge snapping turtle hanging from one of his fingers. There was an old wives’ tale which proposed that if a snapping turtle bit you, it would not let go until the sun went down. Imagine my chagrin when I contemplated Uncle Augie with that ugly beast holding onto his finger until nightfall. Many of the turtles I saw were large, ugly, vicious and very frightening to a child.

I often watched as my father and uncles cleaned snapping turtles in the basement of our house. First they teased the turtle with a stick until the turtle latched onto it with fury, then the holder of the stick stretched the neck out while someone else chopped off the head. The turtle was then skinned in much the same way as the hide of wild game is removed from the body. After the ordeal, when my father carried the meat to the kitchen, the meat was a pinkish white and looked very much like chicken. It was delicious, either fried, or cooked in soup.


Olga S. Hardman
Clarksburg, WV
source: [offline in 2016]

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I played with the little Indians here. They were my only playmates for years.

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 28, 2016

One of the most venerable of Georgia pioneers was Col John W. Gray, who lived for seventy nine years at Adairsville, before that town, halfway between Chattanooga and Atlanta, was founded.

His father settled there in 1833, at which time the Indians were so numerous and the whites so scarce that the lad’s playmates were chiefly the papooses. Colonel Gray was one of the best known men in North Georgia. As a young man he went West in search of gold as one of the “forty niners,” but ere long he returned.

He went away again in 1861, and after the four years of war, in which he was a gallant field officer of the 8th Georgia Infantry, and later on the staff of Gen WT Wofford, he returned to Adairsville and of course that was home all the while.

Confederate Colonel John W. Gray

He was a fine model of the pioneer type. He was over six feet tall and until the last was as straight as an Indian, as hard as a hickory knot, sinewy, active, clear minded and clear blooded. He was a fine example of a vanishing kind that cut their way through the frontier in the old days and faced bravely whatever was before them.

He was one of the bitter opponents of secession. He fought it with determination and he helped to carry Bartow County in a vote against it. But when Georgia did secede and war was on he was one of the first to step to the front and declare his loyalty to his State.

And during the war he proved himself a gallant soldier. After the war when sensibilities were raw and feelings were bitter he was one of the leaders in the regeneration of the stricken South.

Bartow County had its share of scallawags, a lawless lot. They infested his own neighborhood until he laid aside the ways of peace and used violence upon them, risking himself single handed against their combined lot, and he saw them scatter.

In the early seventies he was a member of the lower house of the Georgia Legislature, but he loved straightforward talk and quick action. He did not know the meaning of fear. After the war Colonel Gray returned to Adairsville. He took up merchandising and for years was one of the best merchants of that section, being noted for his honest dealings.

His father gave him a rightful inheritance to his pioneer ways. He had penetrated from North Carolina into Georgia, locating first in Columbia County, next in Carroll and then permanently in Cass County, which afterwards became Bartow.

The elder James Gray was the father of several children of whom this son was the last survivor. On June 12, 1909 an automobile in which were his son James R. Gray and several guests stopped in front of his house on its way from Atlanta to a good roads meeting in Dalton, and a reporter of the Atlanta Journal (which paper is owned by the son James R. Gray) wrote: “Eighty years of winter and summer have passed over his head but they have left it little silvered.

“Nor have they bent him nor broken him, for he stands as straight in his tracks as a university squad youth, and his voice is deep and full toned. He is a remarkable living demonstration of the healthful and preservative qualities of the North Georgia air in which he was born and reared.

“His son, himself a proud grandfather, was one of the party that stopped to pay the vigorous old gentleman of pioneer Georgia their respects on his own threshold.

“Colonel Gray said, ‘I have lived right on this knoll for seventy nine years. I played with the little Indians here. They were my only playmates for years. I can well remember the first white boy I ever got acquainted with. He went out to California with me a good many years later and came back with me. He died about ten years ago.’

“It seemed but a step from the voice that was speaking back to the unknown days when the redskins roamed the woods about and traded their wares at the kitchen door with the slave cooks, while the little white boy in the wilderness got acquainted with their bare thighed sons in the yard. His good-by was the benediction of a patriarch.”

Confederate Veteran, Volume 20, Issue 1, by Confederated Southern Memorial Association, Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1912, Nashville TN

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He’d seek out the sheriff and get him on a chase

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 27, 2016

During the July 27, 1941 race at the Daytona Beach-Road Course he suffered a crushed chest, broken pelvis, head and back injuries, and severe shock. He raced his two brothers and his sister in the July 10, 1949 race at the same course, the only NASCAR event to feature four siblings. And years later, after all the track dust settled, he died on July 15, 1972. You could say July tended to be an eventful month for NASCAR pioneer Truman Fontell “Fonty” Flock.

The Ft. Payne, AL native delivered moonshine as a teenager on his bicycle, and a few years later he was making trips in his car from Atlanta to Dawsonville, GA hauling moonshine. Fonty once said that he would seek out the sheriff and get him on a chase because he had a faster car. Fonty would send off to California and get the best parts for his car and the sheriff couldn’t keep up with him and loved to tease him. The sheriff didn’t have the sources to get the parts to make his car keep up with Fonty’s.

He ran some of the semi-organized races before World War II broke out, winning a 100-mile race at Lakewood Park in Atlanta in 1940. By the time he was 20 in 1941, Flock was regarded as one of stock car racing’s best drivers. After running the dirt tracks in Georgia for a couple of years he made his way to Daytona Beach, Florida searching for the high speed excitement of the Beach-Road courses.

NASCAR driver Fonty FlockHe got plenty of it and more in the July 27, 1941 race mentioned above, where he landed the pole position alongside Roy Hall. Flock took a narrow lead in the opening lap, but the relentless Hall was nipping at his heel all the way down the long but narrow blacktop backstretch. As the pair wheeled into the South turn, the cars banged together. Flock’s Ford darted to the high side of the corner, climbed the outer edge of the track and spiraled end-over-end and side-over-side into a clump of palmetto bushes. The seat belt had snapped in one of the early turnovers and Flock’s limp body was flopping around inside the car. Flock was rushed by ambulance, to the Medical Center in Daytona Beach. He lived, barely.

Five months after Fonty’s wreck the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and auto racing was banned until 1945. Fonty missed the 1945 and 1946 seasons because of his injuries and the ’47 season was well under way when he was healed enough to race again. Despite the late start he was crowned the champion of the 1947 National Championship Stock Car Circuit, the forerunner to NASCAR. He finished second in the 1948 NASCAR standings and won the 1949 Modified title. Flock won 34 races in a few more than 100 starts.

During the early 1950s, Flock drove mostly in Grand National events. He finished second in the point standings in 1951, fourth in 1952, fifth in 1953, and tenth in 1955. Fonty quit NASCAR early in the 1954 season and campaigned in a Midwestern stock car series. He returned to NASCAR in 1955 and won three races, including a March 26, 1955 event that gave Chevrolet its first NASCAR Winston Cup victory in a 200-lap, 100-mile dirt-track race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway.

He had established an insurance agency in Nashville and raced only part-time beginning in 1954.

In 1957 he entered only the beach-road race at Daytona, though he also drove in the Darlington 500 as relief for Herb Thomas, who’d been injured in a practice crash. The car was in bad shape: it blew a tire on the sixth lap and got hit by two other cars. On the 28th lap, the car escaped his control and spun at the entrance of turn three. Split seconds later, Bobby Myers and Paul Goldsmith smashed full-bore into the idle Flock. Flock and Goldsmith were seriously hurt. Bobby Myers was killed instantly. Flock announced his retirement from a hospital bed.

Fonty Flock was inducted into both the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association and the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame in 2004.


Fonty+Flock NASCAR Ft.+Payne+AL appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

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All kinds of tricking in those times, you know it

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 26, 2016

“They brought their produce into town on wagons and they brought hallows to trade horses and all that kind of stuff and vegetables like string beans, tomatoes, corn, watermelons and all that stuff. Bring down and set it right down there on that shelf on the trading ground. And they would sell and people would come and buy stuff just like you were going to the Farmer’s Market. And all that produce was traded right there and once a month on the first Monday of the month they had what they called a Court Day.

Franklin County, VA, Court DayPhoto: Court Day in Franklin County, VA

“And that was the day that the farmers would come into town to trade horses, cattle, sheep or whatever they had that they wanted to trade or what they wanted to sell. And my father and his uncle they were horse traders. Out of all the peddlers he used to feed them baking soda in order to make them look like they were fat. Take them home and two days later he had a skinny little horse already.

“But there was all kinds of tricking in those times you know it. And then you would look at a horse to see how old it was and the first thing he would ask is how old is the horse. And they would say well he’s four years old. Ray would look up and say “Uh, huh. He’s more than four years old.” He’d go, “He’s about ten years old.” He could tell by looking at the teeth.

“They would call it the Coat Round – the Coat Round they called it. And even back before then there was a lady who is living in Charlottesville right now. Her mother was sold off the block right down there on Water Street. Sold to somebody somewhere down the way. Rebecca McGinnis. You could still see them in the pavement not too long ago.

“One of the oldest flagstones in Charlottesville I believe. But anyway, her mother was sold off the block, you know, they put them on the block and they walked by and she looked like a pretty good old – just like the same as with a horse. You know, people had pretty good horses. They had good shoulder variety – good shoulders.”

Walter A. Payne Sr.
Charlottesville, VA
Interviewed July 26 and August 22, 1994
Ridge Street Oral History Project
Virginia Center for Digital History, University of Virginia


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A day’s trip in former years may now be made in 2 hours

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 25, 2016

Men of advanced age are apt to think of the Good Old Days only in retrospect, but as a matter of fact, there is no comparison between the conveniences of life now, and those we enjoyed in 1860.

[Back then] the Tennessee River afforded the only means of ingress and egress for a large section of North Alabama, except by crude dirt roads and horse-drawn vehicles. The highway, then known as the ‘big road,’ was the main artery of commerce from the livestock and fruit growing section of Tennessee and Kentucky to the cotton belt of Alabama and Georgia. This highway led directly from Huntsville to Deposit Ferry.

Large droves of mules, and swine, were driven through the country and crossed the river at Deposit. Facilities for handling large bodies of stock were crude and primitive. Boats were pulled across with oars, and 20 or 25 head of mules made a load. Traders had arranged with farmers along the road to provide food and troughs for mules and horses, and lodging for the drovers. These farms were about a day’s march apart, and were known as mule stands.

Where crops were growing, the road was fenced in, making a lane that was of great assistance to the drovers in keeping their mules from straying while waiting for the final load. Hogs were usually fed in the road and they were generally fat, showed little disposition to stray away, but would promptly tumble down as soon as they were fed. One such stand was located about four miles from the river, and another some thirty miles further south, at the foot of Sand Mountain. This road and ferry were kept in use until about 1890, when the county established a free ferry at Guntersville, when the business at Deposit gradually shifted to the free ferry.

The ferry was not free to non-residents, but the old road was always bad, and was worked by the old plan of ten days work for each able bodied man along the route. It was never a satisfactory method, and the road grew steadily worse, until with recent years, the ferry at Deposit has been discontinued. Late in the last century, the long projected railroad from Gadsden to Guntersville was completed and the people of the valley began to think that they had arrived at the zenith of modern progress. Telegraph lines followed the railroad, and it really was a great step forward. Soon thereafter the telephone came, and we knew that our section would be heard from.

After the telephone came the automobile, which was received with many misgivings. It was really a torture to ride in a car on the roads that we had. At first, it was expected that only rich people could afford to own a car, and grumbling was loud and persistent about keeping roads in order for a chosen few. Teams were frightened and many accidents made the auto very unpopular, until the model ‘T’ put them in reach of all.

Guntersville Ferry, Guntersville ALOriginal caption reads: Around 1928, the old Guntersville Ferry is seen crossing the Tennessee River where the Whitesburg Bridge is now located.

Then went up a shout for improved roads, and the shout was heard and road building began on a small scale with county means. This was so satisfactory that bond issues began for road building. The impulse reached the state and adjoining states, and the result is that every man who has sufficient credit now owns a car. Travel has increased from a distance, and cars may be seen now in any town, with tags from Canada to Florida.

The steam ferry at Guntersville has become inadequate, so that now a splendid bridge, the George S. Houston Bridge, spans the Tennessee River at Guntersville. The road from Guntersville south is hard surfaced and the trip that required a day in former years, may now be made in two hours.

source: “The Good Old Days in Marshall County,” by C.G. Fennell, The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 01, No. 02, Summer Issue 1930.

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