Oh, to return once more to the days when…

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 25, 2016

“Oh, to return once more to the days when they made real country sausage and souse meat! Where grandpa and grandma smoked their long-stemmed clay pipes and would light them by dipping a live coal from the old fireplace.

clay pipe“Let’s go into the big house and sit by the fire and see the old-fashioned dog-irons and the wrought iron shovel and tongs made in the country blacksmith shop. Did you ever see your granddaddy heat the old shovel on a bitter, cold day and hold it in front of the old clock to thaw out the oil in the old timepiece so it could go on tickin’ off the hours?

“I would like to help grandma fill the lamps with oil or ile carried from a country store in a can with an Irish tater stuck in the spout, and watch her trim the wicks so the lamps would glow more evenly. I want to eat some food cooked on an old step-stove, sweet taters baked in an oven on the hearth over hickory and red-oak coals. It would be a welcome sight to see some of the womenfolks swing the fly brush to keep the pesky devils offen’ the table. Right here, it might be said that a family rated according to the kind of fly brush it had. The very poor used a limb, cut from a mulberry tree, and the middle class had one cut out of newspapers, and the upper crust had one made of peafowl’s tail. That family rated, and rated high, brother!

iron cookstove 1890s“I want to go back where all the common, everyday towels were made of salt sacks, and where there was only one store towel which was put out only when the preacher came. I want to see the man of the house take his table knife of chilled steel and whet it on the tines of his fork before he carved the sow-belly that had been cooked with the beans. Did you ever eat any lye hominy or shuck beans? If not, you have never really lived…you have merely existed!

“I want to see the housewife reach into the salt gourd and get a pinch or two or salt to season the beans and taters, which were usually cooked by hanging on a hook in the fireplace to conserve stove wood. And who has not seen the home-made soap in the terrapin’s shell soap dish on the wash bench just outside the door?

“I want to go back to the time when all the shoe boxes were saved to make splits for the womens’ bonnets. Remember ‘em?

“I would like to once more watch apple-butter being made in those huge old, brass kettles, where the long handled stiring wooden ladle never stopped, and that bubbling pot of apple-butter gave off an aroma that I haven’t smelled since, nor can it be expressed in words on paper.

“I want to spend Christmas in the old way once more and get from the Christmas tree, one stick of candy, one orange, and one penny pencil. The rich ones gave their children a French harp and the night was filled with music and the cares that infested the day folded their tents like Arabs, and silently stole away.

“I want to go back.”


–excerpted from
Too Late For Flowers
Never Too Late For Tears
By Roy L. Sturgill

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, published by the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, Publication 12, 1978

appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history Historical+Society+of+SW+Virginia Old+Christmas

Leave a Reply

− 1 = 5

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 24, 2016


Leave a Reply

6 − 3 =

Do you remember Grandma’s lye soap?

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 23, 2016

“Hog killing was a value for rendering out your lard and make your cracklings and we use the scraps to make soap out of. The way we made lye was everybody had an ash hopper. It’s a big square box and you put all your ashes in it that you take out of the fireplace.

“You put it where you tilt it just so water runs in and drips out at one side and it makes lye. We use lye to render the husks from hominy and also to make lye with. And when the men folks decide to tan a hide, to make leather, the lye was used to remove the hair and everything off of it.

“Lye was a very important thing. You’d use tallow to waterproof stuff with. You’d do your washing on a washboard with lye soap. I can remember Octagon soap and powered soaps…they were the first ones I could remember.”

Hazel Farmer
Union County, GA
Interviewed by Martha Clement June 2005


It’s in the book (Grandma’s lye soap)
John Standley and Art Thorson, 1952 (BMI Work #744156)

Horace Heidt & His Musical Knights recorded this piece in the UK; it was released by Capitol Records there in December of 1952 on a 10″, 78 rpm disk. Side A of the record opened with a comic monologue about Little Bo Peep, partly sung, partly spoken in the style of a preacher. Side B featured Grandma’s Lye Soap. It was a number one hit on the Billboard Chart that year, and was recorded live. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disk.


Do you remember grandma’s lye soap
Good for everything in the home
And the secret was in the scrubbing
It wouldn’t suds and couldn’t foam

Then let us all sing right out of grandma’s
Of grandma’s lye soap
Used for, for everything
Everything on the place
For pots and kettles
The dirty dishes
And for your hands and for your face

Shall we now sing the second verse
Let’s get it with great exuberance, let’s live it up
It’s not raining inside tonight
Everyone, let’s have a happy time
Are we ready
All together, the second verse

Little Herman and brother Thurman
Had an aversion to washing their ears
Grandma scrubbed them with the lye soap
And they haven’t heard a word in years

Then let us all sing right out of grandma’s
Of grandma’s lye soap
Sing all out, all over the place
The pots and kettles, the dirty dishes
And also hands and also f…..
(clapping fades)

Well, let’s sing what’s left of the last verse
Let’s have a happy time, everyone
The last verse, al-l-l-l together
Ev-v-v-very one

Mm-m-m-m, thank you kindly, kindly
M-m-mrs, O’Malley, out in the valley
Suffered from ulcers, I understand
She swallowed a cake of grandma’s lye soap
Has the cleanest ulcers in the land

Then let us all sing right out of grandma’s
Of grandma’s lye soap
Sing right out, all over the place
The pots and, the pots and pans, oh dirty dishes
And the hands.


Related posts: “Hometown wisdom in time of war” (lye soap)

One Response

Leave a Reply

− 7 = 2

I studied medicine because it was a challenge, and I wanted to know

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 22, 2016

“I went on to Columbia University, as I had planned. I was just a year late. But Mother promised that I could go on and do graduate work. So, I went on up to Columbia University. I did work in Bacteriology.

“And then, I hadn’t known much about hospitals or laboratory work, but then I got into hospital work, and I studied to be a laboratory technician, you know. And Mother and Dad came up there. We took an apartment, and they came up there and stayed with me that winter. And I was still writing a thesis when they wanted to come home in the spring, and so I stayed on in New York and finished my work up there, and then I came home in 1919 and opened a laboratory here in Asheville. Had my own laboratory.

“It was in the Coxe building right there where the craft shop is, you know. There’s a florist shop in there now, and four Doctors had their offices in there. Dr. Glenn and Dr. Cotton, and who else? Dr. Hipps and Dr. Meriwether. And I took the back room to make that into a laboratory. And there’s another firm of doctors. Dr. Smith, Bernard Smith, and Dr. Lynch, and Dr. Adams were all on the other side.

“Well, I cut a door between those two offices and I had to work from those two sets of doctors, you know.

“Later, when I went back to school, in 1922 I guess, I went back to study medicine. After I did laboratory work, then I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to study medicine. And my father was, encouraged me in it. In fact, he gave me the idea first. He said, “If I had the money, you might as well be a doctor instead of fooling along with this sort of thing, you know. If I had the money, I’d put you through medical school.”

“[As far as women doctors in Asheville,] Dr. Margery Lord was here. [Dr. Margery Lord, City Health Officer for fifteen years from 1939-1954] And an eye specialist had been here. Dr. Merrimon. She fitted my first glasses when I was just a little girl. It wasn’t striking out for woman’s liberation at all, not at all. I studied medicine because I was interested in it. Because it was a challenge, and I wanted to know. …

Dr. Mary Frances (Polly) Shuford  with Stump Town, NC children

Dr. Shuford greets neighborhood youngsters of Stump Town, as they gathered in front of house she had years before converted into Shuford Colored Clinic, where the black residents of Asheville could receive needed medical care. A friend’s gift of $15,000 made the clinic, which opened in 1940, possible.

… “In ’35 I think I opened up my office. But it was awfully hard to get started because it was during the depression and, well, I couldn’t get work anywhere. I wasn’t known here as a physician. And Northern Hospital [where I had interned] was a small hospital, and small private hospital. They had no room for another physician on the staff.

“And Dr. Ingrathaw, Louise Ingrathaw, was really very friendly and helped me. But what I did, I’d been a laboratory technician before, so I opened up a laboratory first and to be sure that I’d have enough money to make it on I asked around to see several doctors.

“And they paid me so much a month to do all their work, no matter what it was. It wasn’t on a fee basis. They just guaranteed me so much work a month. And I got started like that.

“But then, you can’t do two things. As soon as people started coming to me as patients, the doctors didn’t want me to do their laboratory work. And I can understand that. I couldn’t do both. I either had to specialize in pathology, in the laboratory work, or I had to be a physician. Well, I wanted to be a physician. I didn’t want to do the laboratory work. I studied medicine to get out of that.

“Well, in a year or so, I think I stayed in that laboratory, maybe I would say two years, and then Louise Ingrathaw said she couldn’t work, she couldn’t work very hard and if I’d come and do her laboratory work, she would give me, let me have part of her office, and there was space during the day, and she wasn’t there, and when she wasn’t there, I could see patients. And then anything that she didn’t want, she turned my way, which, that was the way to get started, you know.

Operating Room of Asheville Colored Hospital, 1945.

When her operating funds for the clinic were exhausted, Dr. Shuford appealed to the Buncombe County Medical Society. With the help of fiery editorials by newspaper editor Charles Webb, the Colored Hospital was established in 1944. Here’s the operating room in 1945. The hospital later merged with three other medical institutions into Memorial Mission Hospital.

“And the first thing she turned over to me was at six in the morning, a colored girl had phoned her that she had a very bad pain, was nauseated and very sick. And the lady she worked for said she was extremely sick, and would Louise come to see her?

“Well Louise phoned me and said, ‘Well, here’s a case for you. You can go to see this girl.’ And she was in the servants’ room, she spent the night there, in her employer’s home. So I went out to see her; inexperienced as I was, it was easy to tell it was appendicitis. Then I tried to get in the hospital here in Asheville, and that’s another story. I didn’t want to give up my entire practice right at the hospital door and that’s what it would have been, because the colored people could get in the hospital if they had the money to pay — but they didn’t have a dime.

“At that time, it was in the, well, I started the laboratory in the Flat Iron building because there were physicians there who gave me work to do. I moved to the Haywood building with Dr. Ingrathaw and after she had to retire, the firm she was with, other doctors from that office wanted the whole office, so I moved farther down the hall in the Haywood building, and then I moved to the Arcade building. Then war was declared and the government took over the Arcade building for the war effort and then I moved up to the Weaver building, and there I stayed until 1962.”

Dr. Mary Frances (Polly) Shuford
(b. 1897)

Jan 12, 1975 interview
Southern Highlands Research Center
Louis D. Silveri Oral History Collection,
D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections,
University of North Carolina at Asheville

Leave a Reply

6 − = 4

Hog-Butchering Day

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 21, 2016

“Butchering conjures up the image of a country diet laden with generous servings of ham, shoulder, tenderloin, bacon, sausage and spareribs. The restocking of our primary source of hog meat began every spring with the selection of four shoats. Their pre-slaughter fattening schedule coincided with cutting and shucking corn, hand-husking ears of golden grain, and storing each day’s harvest in the crib. Much of this bounty was used in a two-month feeding regimen designed to induce rapid weight gain and, in turn, soften the fat properly for rendering into lard.

“Hog slaughtering was a festive time that required a late fall day of well-coordinated activities, and instilled a sense of espirit de corps. A willingness throughout the neighborhood to pitch in and help each other lifted the load of this annual ritual. Farmers were freer to do so because their field work was winding down. The various tasks also needed many eager hands racing against shorter daylight hours.

butchering day in WV
“My favorite butchering by-product is ponhaus, a term familiar to those with a German ancestry. Scrapple is the name for the same preparation made and sold commercially. The flavoring comes from starting with the “liquor” or broth remaining after the meat destined for puddin’ has been cooked. Miss Hattie, our next door neighbor, added corn meal to this stock and a small quantity of flour for thickening.

“The mixture needed constant stirring by a specially made all-iron rod to which was attached a semicircular blade. The end of this implement was designed to scrape along the bottom of the kettle and prevent the bubbling contents from sticking. Mama insisted only Miss Hattie could be entrusted with tending the fire, seasoning and determining when the blend was sufficiently cooked. If the puddin’ meat was handy, she most likely added some for extra flavor. A well-deserved reputation for turning out tasty ponhaus followed her everywhere.

“Grandma Ambrose scooped the hot preparation out of the kettle with a large sauce pan and ladled the thickened mass into a series of rectangular bread pans. The contents cooled in these molds and solidified overnight. The family enjoyed many a hearty breakfast from slices cut about the thickness of a piece of bread and then lightly fried to a toast brown on either side.”

Kenneth A. Tabler
b. 1926
Martinsburg, WV
“The Day is Far Spent” (Montani Publ, 2006)

Leave a Reply

6 + 9 =

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2016 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive