By: Martha Jean Whitehead Killian

August  2013

As I walked out on the porch this morning, the brisk, cool, winds of fall blew memories of long, long ago across my mind… The year 1956 August 24: Another visit home…

“Get up young un’s…! The bus will be up there at 9 o’clock!” Mama was always an on the ball type person. If you’ve got something to do, get up and do it.

In the fifties most families had one car. There were no Kmart or Walmart or malls to go to and shop. Fathers went to work in the family car. Mothers caught the city bus on Friday’s when the fathers got paid and did their shopping downtown. Since Daddy worked downtown at Royal Cup Coffee on 1st Avenue and 24th street, we would ride back home with him after he got off work. If Mama got finished with her shopping and bill paying, Daddy would meet us at Buckeye’s on Morris Avenue, behind Royal Cup and they would buy a week’s worth of groceries. Image  It was that time again, to make the yearly trek to downtown Birmingham to do the school clothes shopping. I loved it as all the girls did. My brother Kenneth not so much, but no matter, he was an unwilling participate of the trip. Doug was a participate too, whether he liked it or not; he would make his debut September 26, even though he was due the middle of October. As we waited at the bus stop on the corner where Oddo’s Store (a neighborhood grocery) was located, we saw the bus round the corner… “Kenneth, get over here and put them rocks down!”… He always had a little toy car rolling it in the dirt, making roads and bridges out of rocks.

Mama brushing the dirt off his hands, took him in tow and guided us up the steps of the bus. It took about twenty five minutes to get downtown. The bus stopped about every five blocks to pick up other passengers. Once we arrived downtown, there was always an aroma of food to lure you inside a department store. Our favorite splurge to buy was Woolworth’s fresh chocolate iced donuts…I can still smell them now…mmm!

As we made our way to the girls department and Mama helped me try on six different dresses, the sales lady gathered up six slips, six pairs of socks and six pairs of panties and a winter coat for Mama‘s approval. We then headed to the boys department where Kenneth unwillingly tried on one pair of jeans. Mama had to buy Kenneth a size six slim and Parisian was the only store that carried the slim size…oh, how times have changed. Kenneth got six shirts, six pants, six under shirts, six pairs of underwear, six pairs of matching socks and a new winter coat. One pair of pants is all mama could get him to try on…the rest she held up to him and hoped they would fit when he had to dress for another school day. They always fit perfectly. Why six you might ask? Mama said she was afraid she might get sick and not be able to wash; so, she bought an extra set of school clothes for us.

Next, it was over to the shoe department where we tried on Buster Brown shoes, which we outgrew before spring came. Mama and Daddy did without a lot for us kids to have good clothes. Mama said they were poor growing up and was made fun of when they went to school, so she wasn’t going to have anybody making fun of her kids. No one ever made fun of the way we were dressed.

Now, that the shopping was finished, to Buckeye’s we headed for the weeks groceries. With the week’s groceries loaded in the back of Daddy’s 1950 green Ford pick-up truck, darkness approaching and the day fading into the night; we would soon be at home where love was always abundant… …until the next visit…



There are no walls or ceilings,

Nor lights that brightly shine,

But there are sunbeams, soft and dim

In an outdoor church of mine.

No windows are by mortals stained

To obstruct a beautiful view…

In the solitude of the forest

A fallen log is my pew.

A mossy stump serves as altar

Over which the chipmunks roam;

And where the gentle breezes blow

I always feel at home.

The choir loft is the fir above

Where branches join and meet;

The birds in unison softly trill

A song so mild and sweet.

There are no bells that ring

To call for me to pray,

As from a silent bower

The Lord hears what I say.

In a church in a forest

Never has there been a  door;

Looking down is the sky above,

And a fertile earth is the floor.

In a shady nook all my own,

My Lord is waiting there

To hear me express my thoughts

In words of humble prayer.

Often when I’m not in sight,

I am kneeling on hallowed earth,

Praying to the Lord I love,

Alone in my outdoor church.

Submitted by Patsy Box Johnson


Roger Mayfield    

It seems today that good manners and good behavior are entirely different than when I was growing up.  As a matter of fact there’s a huge lack of either one these days.


I remember growing up if you misbehaved or showed disrespect you got the switch or the belt.  But nothing was worse than the dreaded lecture of why you shouldn’t have misbehaved or gotten in trouble to begin with. Just give me the whipping instead, it wasn’t as bad as the lecture. We didn’t get in trouble much but when we did you knew you weren’t getting off so easy. I appreciate my parents and grandparents for the discipline we received.  It’s made me a better person today.


I remember going to church with my Grandmother, Earlene Dodd, at Tidwell’s Chapel Church of Christ.  She brought a little switch with her to church, which would keep us in line during church.  You knew better than to get in trouble during church or you would get taken outside for a spanking.  When you came back inside everyone knew what had happened. My mother borrowed the switch a few times.   I don’t remember ever having this happen to me, but my little brother Glen got to make a few trips outside for being disruptive.


These days I hear children calling their parents by their names instead of mom, dad, etc.  If we had done this when I was growing up you would have been in so much trouble.  Parents even allow it and that’s a shame.  This was considered disrespectful and to me still is. 


I always looked forward to Sunday dinners at either of my Grandmother’s.  My Mama Dodd and Mama Hassie, as I called them, always had the best food.  But, you didn’t sit down at the table until you were called and you didn’t start eating until everyone else had been seated.  You didn’t complain about what was on the table, if you did you knew what was coming next. Kids today are asked what they want for dinner.  What my parents or grandparents put on the table is what we had and you didn’t question it. We ate vegetables at every meal not like the chicken fingers, fries and pizza kids eat all the time now.  We’d never even heard of a chicken finger until I was a teenager. We rarely got a hamburger or even ate at a restaurant for that matter, because with five of us kids it was too expensive.


Working with the public everyday like I do you see all kinds of people.  Some of them the nicest people, and others just plain rude with no manners at all.  When I was in school at Hubbertville High School, we learned about manners, besides what I learned at home.  I learned how to address people, greet them and how to be courteous.  I don’t think it’s even taught in school anymore. 



Imogene Tidwell Persall

Cold houses once were heated by fireplaces with wood or coal; and pot-belly heaters had coal or wood burning in them, also. These have been replaced by electric or gas burning heaters and central air conditioning units. Most houses have brick or various other materials for outer siding. Outhouses, paths to the woods or barns have been replaced by indoor bathrooms. Sears Roebuck catalog pages have been replaced by rolls of soft toilet tissue. Never thought how nice the toilet tissue could be.

Barns are almost gone that once were homes to livestock – mules, horses and cows. Very few milk cows on the farm to milk now, with milk, butter, margarine cheese etc. coming from the supermarket. When I was growing up, we had a choice of sweet milk or buttermilk to drink at mealtime. Now it is cokes, tea, or all sorts of beverages.

Hog killings replaced by buying sausage, pork chops, pork loins, pork or beef roasts, ground beef or turkey, etc. Some people kill deer; and have the meat ground into summer sausage, roasts, stews, etc. I never saw a deer on the “Earl Tidwell Plantation” during my 18 years living at home.

Cotton picking in pick sacks, and pulling dry corn off the stalks and throwing it in piles, have been replaced by air-conditioned cotton pickers and corn pickers. That was a dream that I never had when I was pulling that long pick sack under the hot sun!

We, who lived on the farms in the fifties and sixties, were the last generation to make a living on the farm doing things the hard way. Think about it!

Church buildings were not air-conditioned when I was in my teens and early twenties. Windows were opened, and we used fans (with an advertisement printed on them) that someone got at a funeral home to try to keep cool. Of course, the fan just moved the hot air from one side of the face to the other side. Our big gospel meetings were only in July each year. Brother Gus Nichols was usually the guest speaker. He often preached almost an hour and a half. Church buildings were overflowing with people. Daddy and other men stood outside or sat on car hoods. Brother Nichols preached very loud and strong about “Hell-fire and Brimstone”. He could bring it so close to a person’s back that he could feel the heat. As the invitation song was sung, many people came forward, confessing their sins and were baptized! In his lifetime he baptized 12,000 people. WOW!

Now, we have nice centrally air conditioned church buildings, indoor bathrooms and other comfortable facilities. Very few people at any gospel meeting are baptized; often none at all. What has gone wrong? “Hell-fire” is still the same; we don’t have very many preachers who can “scorch” our backs with their preaching. Really, it is not all the preacher’s fault; we just don’t study our Bibles like we should!


  1. Rub boards, wash tubs, black wash pots, clothes lines replaced by electric washers and dryers.
  2. Kerosene lamps replaced by electric lamps and overhead lights.
  3. Wood floors- covered by plush carpets.
  4. Springs and wells replaced by community water systems carrying water to our sinks, bathtubs, toilets, showers and refrigerators (for ice).
  5. Hand cranked ice cream freezers replaced by electric ice cream freezers.
  6. Battery powered radios replaced by modern radios, TVs, computers and more things every day.
  7. Wood burning stoves replaced by electric or gas stoves, microwave, toaster and convection ovens.
  8. Boiling water on stovetop replaced by running hot water from water heater.
  9. Dishpans replaced by automatic dishwashers.
  10. Wash pans replaced by bath tubs and showers in bathroom.
  11. Cast iron smoothing irons replaced by electric steam irons.
  12. Toni Home Perms (and such) replaced by haircuts, sets and perms at hair salons done by professional hair dressers.
  13. Stovetop coffee percolators replaced by various electric coffee makers.
  14. Homemade biscuits replaced by canned or frozen biscuits or breakfast all together at Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Jack’s etc..

The list could go on forever it seems. Who would have ever thought that breakfast at fast food outlets could be such a booming business? Who would have ever imagined that young men and young women who really don’t know how to cook, would be preparing food for so many people? Remember, as changes continue, new opportunities are opening up every day.

As long as life goes on, changes continue, (sometime for better, sometime for worse). As long as we have opportunities, let us try to be an influence for good.

By Martha Jean Whitehead Killian


Painting by Martha Jean

Painting by Martha Jean

I saw a picture the other day of a family of long, long ago. It reminded me of my family, my mother, my daddy and my brothers, Kenneth and Doug; a memory of long ago…

…look at the watermelon on the table. When we were kids

Mama would always cut the watermelon outside on some newspaper.

Then stick the knife up in one half, just like the picture I saw.

We would spit the seeds outside. The juice would run down our arms and on our feet.

When we got through Mama would wash the sticky juice off our hands and feet with the hose pipe.

We had a few voluntary vines come up too…don’t think we ever grew a watermelon tho…

Daddy kept the grass cut every week with a push mower. That’s a lawn mower that is powered by pushing it, real man power; there wasn’t much chance of a weed growing tall, let along a watermelon vine.

Since we lived in the city of Birmingham, the lots were not big enough to have a garden.

When the crops were gathered and the farmers started bringing them to the Farmer’s Market on Finley Avenue, with us kids in tow, that’s where Mama and Daddy headed.

The only place on the market that Mama and Daddy headed to was where the trucks were parked. The next thing they looked for was a truck with a 32 tag on it. For those of you who do not know what a 32 tag is; it is the county number of Fayette County. They knew they would find some kin folk or if they weren’t kin, they were kin to somebody we were kin to… I don’t know how much was buying fresh vegetables or how much was a reunion and catching up on all gossip and who married who and how many babies were born and who died. They would probably spend two hours or more over there on the market on a Saturday afternoon catching up…

On Sunday we would reap the benefits… Mama would cook the purple hull peas she and Daddy shelled after they got home last night. Shuck the corn, cut it off the cob, scrape the cob and fry it in the black iron skillet. Then, cut the okra up and fry it in another iron skillet. Mmm…you can’t have fresh vegetables without fresh sliced ripe tomatoes that came off another Fayette County farmer’s truck. A big pawn of cornbread cooked in another iron skillet. And yet another was used to fry the chicken. I never ask where the chicken came from. I have all of Mama’s iron skillets and I use them every day.

That afternoon we kids had what we had been waiting for…that Fayette County watermelon. Sometimes it would be a yellow meated watermelon.

When I am cooking that same meal using my mama’s skillets and I smell the aroma of all the dishes mingling together I can close my eyes and visit home…once again.