Early Family Life in Tioga
While Sam Allen did an impeccable job of the everyday maintenance of the houses under his charge, it fell to every member to take care of everything else.
"We didn't think of them as chores," said Mrs. Betty Longino. "We just did it because it had to be done. We worked in the garden or whatever had to be done ... chop rich pine and make splinters to start fires with. We took turns washing and drying dishes. We all liked to draw water out of the well. That was never a chore; we just did it. When the buckets got empty, we would head out and draw some water.”
Mrs. Opal Hudson had "all the bedrooms to clean. l had to dean them before l went to school," she explained. "I had them all clean; I had to pull the sheets off."
"I guess, really we spent more time working," laughed Mrs. Ona Carson, "at the house, or in the garden, cutting grass, washing, rub board.'' Not only menial chores dominated Mrs. Carson's time; her family participated in the tremendously skillful activity of quilting. "I pieced a quilt top. It had already turned cool. You cut out squares of newspaper the same size and then you would take the scraps -· small scraps. You put your paper down and put a piece of material here and stitch – they called them string quilts. Then you add another piece of material and stitch and turn it open and work until you fill a block and then the blocks were sewn together." Mrs. Carson also made her own clothes. Her aunt had cut her a pattern for a pair of shorts, and when she sewed them together "this side fit fine but this side was wrong side out because l had not turned the pattern over." Mrs. Carson laughed, “I used them for pajama pants. I couldn’t go outside with them on.”
"Momma was an outstanding seamstress," shared Mrs. Longino, "of course just about everyone was, 1 suppose, during that day because they had to be. She made my clothes. Not the boy's shirts, you know, not the boy's clothes but the girl's clothes (dresses and underwear). [She] made our pajamas-even made our sheets for the beds. From my earliest memory she and Estelle, my oldest sister, and other ladies in the community quilted. It was a necessity in order to have something warm during the winter. I learned to quilt at an early age. I liked sewing. She would do regular sewing. She did embroidery, tatting, knitting, crochet."
"Our chores were cutting grass and chopping wood to keep the wood box filled as needed and taking care of the animals," said Mr. Bob Jordan. But he mostly remembers that "family life was earning a living and making payroll to satisfy your needs."
As a young man, Mr. Jordan would wait on the porch of the commissary and watch the trains roll by and, if he was lucky, would be given the opportunity to make some money: "They passed a law requiring animals to be dipped in a dip pen. They were marked with yellow paint to show they had been dipped to kill out the ticks that were infesting the animals. Of course, that was a big day in Tioga because all of the people who had animals had to bring their cows and mules and horses and stuff in to be dipped. That meant a lot of cowboys were riding the horse and a lot of activity. Some of the kids would even take a day off of school and go watch it." Mr. Jordan orated the story of a man named Jeff Stalling who had a small herd of cattle and, once a month, "the boys-my age, twelve, thirteen years old-would swap off taking Jeff's mule to the dipping pen to be dipped. We would make a fun day out of it."
The overall lack of one-stop-shopping created the need for sustenance farming. While staples could be purchased pretty readily from the commissary, fresh produce, dairy and meat were harder to come by, unless one had a garden. "We had a garden at that time," said Mrs. Alberta Roshto, "so we had all that we had fresh vegetables and such."
"Daddy fenced off a part of what was the garden, and we used to have a pig in the fall-not a pet-and chickens and we had the milk cow," explained Mrs. Carson. The pig provided meat for the family in the fall.
"We had a horse and some cows and hogs and chickens and guineas. Sometimes turkeys. They raised turkeys [neighbors], and we raised turkeys for a few years. We loved guineas. They could just roam all over the place. [We] had twenty acres and part fenced in to keep the hogs in. Of course, that was a few acres they had to roam in. They had a pen besides that. A lot of cattle," said Mrs. Longino, "Mama had a garden, there right by the yard at the house. She grew some onions and cabbage and stuff like that."
Mrs. Longino's father also planted crops such as "field peas and butter beans, speckle beans, corn-so we would not only have corn for us but the corn and the hay for the horses and cattle. Corn for the hogs. Peanuts-always planted peanuts. Watermelons, cantaloupes. Didn't have much success with watermelons ...he land is not rich here. Land along the Red River is very rich, but this is 'Piney Woods Land,' people call it. lt is not rich. We always had to use fertilizer on the crops. Homegrown mostly." He never sold the crops; it was all to feed the family of ten and the livestock.
"At that time we had what was the 'Open Range Law,"' explained Mr. Jordan, "cows were allowed to graze willy-nilly. You opened the back gate and the cow went out and would wander through all the open pasture. There were no fences."