HOME AT LAST - Verona, Johnson Street
In 1944, my dad had managed to save enough money to buy a home in Verona, MS. The home cost him $5,000 and he had to work hard to gather that much money, but he did it. Mom was so proud, we had a full basement and plenty of rooms upstairs. It had a big front and side porch with two swings. Mom got four big rocking chairs to put on the porch (I've now got them at my own home, on my front porch). We even had a water hydrant in the front yard to water the flowers and our own well and water pump in the backyard. This home was the hub of our lives, and as time went on, it was the gathering place for grandchildren as well, many happy memories here.
Mother and my sister June worked hard at cleaning the house inside and out. Saturday's we would fire up the big wash pots to wash cloths. The water had to be boiling hot to wash the dirty work clothes. After washing and wrenching them and running them through a hand crank wringer, they hung them out to dry on a long clothes line. Dad had to brace the clothesline so it wouldn't break from the weight of the wet clothing. After the clothes were dry, Mom and June would iron and put starch on the shirts and cloths that needed them.
GM&O RAILROAD & the "Rebel" | Our home sat on about 2 acres and the property lines were West on the backside, running East to the front. On the back our lines bordered the GM&O railroad. My bedroom window overlooked the railroad tracks. At night I watched the passenger trains going by, wondering where the people on the trains were going. In the war years you could see train after train loaded down with army trucks, tanks, troop trains, jeeps and big long barreled guns, soon to be shipped overseas to be in the war.
At 10pm each night a passenger train coming from New Orleans called the "Rebel" came by, it was headed north to St. Louis, Missouri. It was most always on time and it only made stops at large towns to load and unload passengers and shipped goods.
Back then, without stopping, the train picked up and dropped off local mail to all the small towns located near the railroad tracks. Each small town had a mail man whose job was to place the mailbag in a train pick up holder, located along the railroad tracks. The train's mail car had a device that grabbed the local mail bag from a holder and then tossed a local mail bag down the tracks that landed on the ground. The mailman picked it up and took it to the town's post office. I knew the local mailman in Shannon, Wesley Barnett, and sometimes my parents would let me go with Wesley to pick up the mail, that's how I know how the local mail was delivered.
REBEL MAKES STOP IN TUPELO & June gets a job | After finishing college, my sister June got a job as a stewardess on the Rebel. Sometimes we would go to Tupelo to visit with her during the Tupelo stopover. At 10pm, if I was awake at home, I would always look out the window to see if I could see June waving when the Rebel passed by, headed north. One time we went to the Tupelo train station to see June and she let me come aboard and take a look inside. What a thrill! Now at night when I looked out my window and saw the Rebel go by, I could say that I'd been inside that train. We lived close enough to the railroad that I could sometimes get a glance of my sister June looking out the train window and waving.
LIFE AT HOME in Verona | When we first moved to Verona, Dad wanted to do what he had done when we lived on the farm in Centerville and raise most of our own food. It tasted better and it was cheaper.
We bought two pigs, a bull for meat, a cow and ninny goat for milking, and chickens for eggs. In the fall and winter, there was an old country saying when it got real cold, "It's hog killing time". Dad would ask some neighbors to help in killing, cleaning and getting the meat ready for winter storage. He would always give them a fair share for their help. From those pigs we got bacon, tenderloin, pork chops, and country ham. There wasn't too much of that pig that we didn't use. They cooked the fat down for lard for cooking, also for making soap, this was called lye soap, the lye was mixed with fat and wood ashes.The pig's skin was then washed and fried, making what was called, cracklings. They were good just to eat, or for making crackling bread.
We had fig, peach, and apple trees for fruit, five big pecan trees and two walnut trees. A garden in the spring and summer with corn, peas, beans, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. When the garden vegetables were ready for picking, it meant canning time. Mom would bring out the big pressure cooker and get the fruit jars ready for canning. She canned jams, jellies, and fresh vegetables out of the garden. What wonderful family meals Mom would fix every day, but especially on Sundays. No matter what time of day you set down at mom's table, it was always a delicious treat, she baked cakes pies, and cookies, and she still held down a full time job.
In the summer dad woudl get the old hand cranked ice cream freezer out. To make homemade ice cream, Mom would skim off some cream from the top of the fresh milk, and make up the ice cream fixings with peaches or strawberries, if we had some bananas, that would be the flavor. On those hot days in the summer, mostly on weekends, dad would fix home made ice cream for the front porch after supper treat and on Sundays when friends came by to visit.
LION OIL SERVICE STATION & GROCERY, Verona | After living in our home in Verona for about three years, Dad bought Lion Oil Service Station & Grocery store located just off the Main highway 45 South in Verona. It also had a full living quarters. We moved to what we referred to as the "Hi-Way" to take care of the grocery and service station and temporarily rented our house to the Young family.
When I was 13 years old, dad taught me to drive the car so I could deliver groceries in Verona. This worked out real well because we took phone orders for groceries and free local home deliveries. I was now a delivery boy after school. As long as I didn't drive on the main highway, I didn't worry about a driver's license. I shared that job with dad until he sold the store and we moved back to our home on Johnson Street.
Our family was a loving and caring one, and our small town of Verona was a very special place to live.