CHILD's PLAY (The fifties and sixties)by Joyce Joiner Schultz ... July 2004
It looks like it's time to write another story for all of you good folks. As time passes, it seems like you have more time to slow down and think about your childhood. To begin with, growing up with six sisters and five brothers was quite an accomplishment. I remember ten of us being home at different times, because I'm the middle of the eleven. I guess I was around two years old when the oldest sister and the oldest of the family married and left home. I do not remember much about her, except they did visit us often. Later, she had a daughter who was about four years younger than me. We played together. It was just like having another sister in the family.
We would play house a lot. We would play church often because the Castleberrys had brush arbor church services in their yard. The arbor had small tree poles at each corner and piled up brush on top and hand made plank benches. It had a pulpit to preach from and plenty of room between the seats so you could bring pallets for the kids to sleep on. So we played church and read from the Bible and took turns being the preacher. We sang and put the baby dolls on the pallets. Sometimes these blessings went on till after hours. It all depended on if you got saved that night … or if someone wanted to shout and sing. We must have been the most blessed and saved children in the community, unless they did the same as we did. I guess that wasn't a bad thing to do. We took turns playing moms and dads, but of course the boys would never play house with us. We made up things to do because we never had toys. But my niece had a few toys. So, when she visited we played our hearts out with her toys.
Growing up was hard for us. There was not much time to play unless you were too small to do field work. But then, there was nobody to play with the youngest because one was just an infant and the other one was just about two years old .The oldest child watched the two youngest. It was just fascinating to watch mom come out from the field, just in time to feed the baby when he or she cried. She took a clean washcloth, wet it down, washed off her breast and cooled off for a bit. Of course, by then the baby was really yelling. While the baby ate, we all stopped to get a drink of water and have a little snack. Most of all we knew that went on in the world was eating, working or attending school (depending on the time of year), going to church and of course, sleeping. We did not know any better so, I guess it did not matter. So, when we got to play we played; not much fighting. Sometimes we were a little mean to each other.
We worked for almost all the farmers in Chumuckla, Fla. To begin with, we only picked cotton for the summer; then, we got into picking produce. That seemed to be a never-ending job. No matter if it rained … you worked. At times, we fussed about always having to work but in the end we all came back to our old working selves again. We raced each other to the ends of the rows and that way we could sit longer. Then we started feeling guilty and helped each other finish there rows out. For being good to each other, mom and dad let us all sit for a little while.
When we picked cotton, we worked alongside the Hatfields; Mr. Roy Hatfield’s wife and girls. Sometimes their boys picked cotton along with us. We had some very nice conversations. Christina and I were the same age so we talked about school and the boys.
Some very nice “colored folks” worked alongside us. Mom always called them “colored folks”. She did not do it from disrespect or anything. It was just how she approached the subject. But, in turn they would call her the “nice white lady”. The term “colored” was never a problem with our family or the black families that we associated with. We just accepted each other as human beings, which is the way it should be.
Another game we played was catching the lightning bugs. It was on a warm summer’s night as the story unfolds into the evening. We ran around the yard with our empty mason jars. We ran toward the flashing lights that came from all around us. It was such a joy for us. Late at night – on a quiet evening - I can still hear the laughter. Oh! What memories we have. Lightning bugs were as much of a part of summer as fresh tomatoes and ice-cold watermelon. Watermelon was just as good straight from the field where you just ate it with your hands dirty, never thinking about it. Peas, beans corn, tomatoes and squash were available all summer long so we ate as much as we wanted.
Most of our games were either made up from things around us, plus a big dose of make believe. We let our minds run free to catch all those dreams that drifted our way. Sometimes our dreams were unrealistic and could never come true. Nevertheless, what is a dream if you cannot dream big? Why dream little!
We ran up and down the dirt road, climbed trees. Sometimes we got hurt but we never ran home complaining about our scratches. We knew if we did, we would have to do chores and nobody wanted to do that. We just kept on playing until time for supper. We cleaned up and mom put something on the cuts and scratches. Most of the time we did not find out we were hurt until we took our baths. Then we knew! The burning came in full force when we jumped into the washing tub for our bath.
We were thrilled to be able to just loaf around and play, so we never would say, “I'm bored”. If we did, our parents put us to work cleaning or some other needed chore. We made up games to play. Most of the time we were the only ones who knew the rules, which were sometimes crazy. We used the mail-order catalogs to cut out paper dolls and licked them or used water to attach the cutouts to the board. We had a good collection of paper dolls that we made. All of the kids in the family played with them. Grandma Nelson got us a jump rope for Christmas one time. It was the greatest thing. One year she gave us some jacks. However, the jump rope was best. The rope was more fun than the jacks because you had something that was all yours. You did not have to play with anyone else if you did not want too. I guess that sounds a little self-centered but these are my thoughts. Sometimes you just wanted to be by yourself and not have to share.
As summer came to and end things started slowing down a bit. Mom would get as many watermelons as she could and store them under our beds or wherever we could. Every jar was filled with all our winter vegetables. We packed them away for the winter months ahead of us. It seemed like an eternity until it all revolved back around to summertime again.
Copyright - Joyce Joiner Schultz 2004